forward into the future. The end of this programme did, though, mean frustration and delay in securing improvements or rebuilding for some schools in desperate need.
I have fought hard to secure the funding necessary to assist some of our primary schools and secondary schools that slipped through the net to recover their position and I am pleased that, with an improving economy, much that had to be put on hold is now moving again – but at a sensible and not a crippling cost.
We are not out of the woods. While some excellent standards and results have been achieved, particularly in some of our most deprived areas in East Kent, there are still schools that are failing and pressure upon school places as the population also grows.
This has meant, inevitably, that too many young people have been denied the primary and secondary schools of first, second or sometimes even third choice. We are going to have to be able to afford to invest in more new schools and in the extension of some establishments that are over-subscribed because of the excellence of their reputations.
I believe that we right to seek to stimulate the building of additional Grammar school facilities. I have a bias: I enjoyed a grammar school education myself and I want others to have the chance to gain from a similar degree of the social mobility and opportunity that I benefitted from.
I l hope that it may soon be possible to secure at least a satellite Grammar School for The Bay and I shall continue to work for this. It is a nonsense that hundreds of students from the coastal strip have to commute daily to Faversham, Thanet or Canterbury to attend the selective schooling to which they are entitled because there is no such local educational establishment.
At the same time we must recognise that vocational qualifications are as valuable and can lead to as good or even better careers and futures than academic qualifications. We have been right, therefore, to relax the emphasis on part of the curriculum and, while seeking to make sure that those leaving school have the necessary skills in literacy and numeracy to see them through their lives, have created the ability for young people to gain good work-related skills. We need to facilitate opportunity and the realisation of talent rather than to concentrate on political whim and doctrine.
In the context of opportunity there is now a greater recognition that while Higher Education at University suits and benefits some it is not designed for every student. There has been a welcome increase in University provision in East Kent and the creation of a medical school based upon the University of Kent and Christ Church college is a significant step in the right direction but our Further Education Colleges are also now offering still more practical courses that lead to good qualifications and good jobs. Once again, more investment – which is certainly needed – in more facilities and highly qualified staff can and will flow from a strong economy. Those that would take us back to the days of a spendthrift 70s-style Labour administration will, in the long run, only damage their cause. I, and I believe those that run local colleges, want them to be on a sound financial footing and to succeed. The constraints that education has had to face have not been easy – and I know of nobody on the government benches that thinks otherwise – but we are, now, heading in the right direction.
We remain fortunate in Kent. We have managed to preserve an excellent mix of Grammar and high Schools, Technology and Sports Colleges, Academies and Faith-based and Foundation schools. We are also lucky enough to have a good range of infant, junior and primary schools and specialist provision for those with special educational needs.
In the early days of the 2010 coalition Government the need to restore the credibility of the finances that had been left in such a shocking state meant an end to a wasteful “Building Schools for the Future” programme that has shackled some of our schools with debts going