Cllr Simon Dudley is the Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, a founder of free schools, and a Director of the Homes and Communities Agency (soon to be Homes England)
As we spend reflective time over the Summer, we will think about the General Election, the lessons we must learn, and what defines us as Conservatives. I know that we will return with a collective vigour to tackle the social injustices around us. One of those priorities must be further help for children in care (CIC).
In a National Audit Office report in 2014 we learnt that there were 68,000 CIC in England and that the attainment gap at GCSE in 5+ A*-C including English and Maths was a humbling 43 per cent compared with their peers. A child has one chance to be educated, so that failure in our system will disadvantage these children into their adult lives.
Well there are two things we are doing in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) to try and help our young people. Firstly, we recently joined the growing number of local authorities in exempting care leavers up to the age of 25 from paying any council tax. The link to the paper is here and Cllr Natasha Airey our Cabinet member for Children’s Services did a wonderful job championing this.
For most care leavers there are no family or financial resources to fall back on. They need as much help as possible to start climbing the ladder. It would be fantastic to see every Conservative council in England give this exemption. Leading the way, so it becomes an England wide council tax exemption, irrespective of political control.
Secondly, education is absolutely key, and one element of that is more good and outstanding school places. This is because state school admissions priority number one is “looked after or previously looked after children (LAC)”. Hence they have the highest admissions priority of any pupil. They can go to the best comprehensive state schools.
In RBWM, a free school I helped found called Holyport College (partnered with Eton College) was recently rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Being a state boarding school (day and boarding places), I am immensely proud that more CIC/LAC go to Holyport College than all other secondary state schools in RBWM combined. So those children can enjoy the playing fields of Eton with their peers. Those new good and outstanding free schools (and there are many of them) really are lowering the ladders of opportunity to those who need the help the most. Those who have the least.
This is from a local authority where our Managing Director, Alison Alexander was a CIC herself.
Have a well deserved Summer break everyone. When you get back, let us together finish the work we have started. To build that country that works for everyone – not just the privileged few.