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North Devon's 2014 general election candidates explain how they would improve education

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 30, 2014

  • UKIP: Steve Crowther.

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Nick Harvey – Liberal Democrat MP

Continue the work I'm doing now. I've engaged with a number of local schools and hear the serious challenges they're facing thanks to Devon's place as sixth worst-funded local authority in England, due to historic flaws in the funding formula.

After a number of years pressing on this issue with the F40 campaign group, we secured a pledge from the Education Secretary last year that the formula would be changed in time for 2015-16.

That's progress, but we've got to ensure it happens in the right way in 2015.

Schools are also struggling to support disadvantaged children from rural poor backgrounds because they're missing out on precious Pupil Premium funding.

Free School Meals – the "passport" to Pupil Premium funding – do not reach 47% of children in poverty in North Devon. Children are therefore missing out on the extra support they need and we have got to find a way to plug this gap for children of all ages.

Peter Heaton-Jones – Conservative Party

We have some very good schools and colleges in North Devon, with excellent teachers and hard-working students. But we should always strive to do even better.

If elected, I would seek a much fairer funding formula. Currently North Devon is short-changed and receives some of the lowest per-pupil funding rates in England.

I invited the Education Secretary Michael Gove here to see for himself, and some improvements are now planned, but I will fight for more.

I would seek to ensure that there are adequate school places as new developments are built and our population grows. Families must be able to rely on good schools close to where they live.

I would also want to review the Free Schools policy and its impact on the wider provision. We must ensure that all schools and colleges in North Devon can offer the best possible education to our young people.

Steve Crowther – UKIP

It's no secret that UKIP is the only major party that's in favour of bringing back grammar schools, as part of a multi-faceted education system that brings out the best in each child, whether academic or not.

Since Michael Gove has kyboshed our cunning plan to create new grammar schools as "satellites" of existing ones, I would encourage trusts to come into North Devon and build specialist academies and free schools.

We're building lots of houses, but where are the new school places?

Oh, and I'd promote our policy of abolishing homework. Schools can, and should, provide opportunities for children to stay in school longer, do more sport and activities, and then do their homework before they leave.

That way they (and their parents) can enjoy their family time and not spend it bickering about whether the homework's been done. Homework exacerbates social inequality, and gives everyone a headache.

Why send kids home in the middle of the afternoon, with more work to do? It's daft.

Mark Cann – Labour

We have many excellent schools and teachers in North Devon and they deserve a fairer deal. The financing of education needs reform so that rural areas like ours are treated more equitably. I would oppose the policy of creating so called "Free Schools" which has taken funding away from the maintained sector and has done little to meet the real needs of communities.

We have sufficient capacity in our successful local schools to meet the demand for places and we shouldn't see much needed funding being diverted in this way.

While the growth of academies has some advantages for schools, I worry about what is lost by way of co-operation, co-ordination and accountability which the old local education authorities helped promote.

I would be keen to encourage the formation of co-operative trust schools and academies that will help to ensure schools stay rooted in their communities and see that they remain accountable to local people.

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