Category Archives: Education

Home to School Transport consultation is nothing but a sham

Labour Education and Skills Spokesperson Jack Abbott writes


Times are hard at Suffolk County Council. Another £27m is to be cut from the budget and there are many more years of cuts on the horizon. The need to trim budgets and cut costs at the whim of central government is leaving the council in an impossible situation.

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More disappointing education results released

Labour’s Education Spokesperson on Suffolk County Council has called for an urgent review of education in Suffolk after another disappointing set of statistics were released.

Cllr Jack Abbott has made the intervention after the latest round of education statistics revealed that pupils in Suffolk continue to lag behind the national average in terms of their attainment levels.

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‘Disappointing’ Key Stage 1 results released

Following the release of the Key Stage 1 phonics test results by the Department of Education Labour Councillors are calling for Suffolk County Council to do more as once again the phonics test results show Suffolk children are behind the national average in all subjects of reading, writing, mathematics and science.

The figures released today show that there has been no relative increase in the standard of Suffolk pupils at Key Stage 1 despite the administration spending large amounts of money on Raising the Bar and school improvement generally. There was no Key Stage 1 phonics subject in which Suffolk reached the national average in either category of ‘reaching the expected standard’ or ‘working at greater depth’.

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It’s time to stand up for Suffolk schools

Shrugging your shoulders is not good enough; it’s time to stand up for Suffolk schools

Labour Councillors are calling for tougher action from the Suffolk County Council administration after it was announced that under changes to the Government’s school funding system, Suffolk faces a real-term cut in pupil spending from 2018. Labour are deeply concerned that this significant cut will lead to a drop in educational outcomes for the children of Suffolk.

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Labour Back’s Library Campaigners to Support Suffolk Libraries

Labour’s pledge to support campaigners and reverse unnecessary cuts to Suffolk Libraries in bid to keep all Libraries in the County open.

Despite warnings from Suffolk Libraries – who offered the ruling Conservative Group a compromise that would see funds reduced gradually over time, while new funding sources were found and secured, ensuring that all Libraries remain open – the administration at Suffolk County Council last week voted through an extra £200,000 of cuts to the Library service. The Labour Group’s amendment, which was voted down by Conservative and UKIP Councillors in a debate at Full Council on the 9th February, proposed to reverse these cuts and continue negotiation with Suffolk Libraries over their long-term financial sustainability.

In an official statement after the vote, the Chair of Suffolk Libraries, Tony Brown, said “Negotiations and discussions between Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Libraries have been continuing over the past year. Though less than originally proposed, we have reluctantly agreed to accept the £200,000 reduction for 2017/18. In our discussions with the council we have made it clear that we have reached a point at which we cannot make further efficiency savings so a reduction of this level is going to be challenging.”

A spokesperson from Rosehill Campaign Group said, “We are shocked at the Council vote. The County Council is squirrelling away money into its reserves instead of spending it on public services. Yes, we need some financial reserves but not to this level; it cannot be justified. This decision means that essential public services will continue to suffer. This includes our much-loved library service.”

“A few years ago thousands of people signed petitions in Suffolk to keep our libraries open. We are deeply concerned that continued cuts will undermine the viability of our library service. People rely on libraries for a wide range of services. We need to keep our libraries open, keep them healthy and build on their success. The cut-backs suggest that the County Council is completely out of touch with its residents. We have the County Council elections coming up in May – so watch out Suffolk County Council as it will then be our turn to vote…”

Library campaigner, Jennifer Greatrex, said “Just how are the libraries’ board objectives to “protect and improve the service” going to be achieved when £200,000 is cut from their budget? I feel very sorry for all the staff and the volunteers in friends’ groups across the county who have worked so hard to try to ensure that the service evolves to meet the needs of local communities. In times of economic hardship, the libraries are even more important. The ruling group on SCC seems to be obsessed with cuts for cuts sake.”

Labour Spokesperson for Communities, Mandy Gaylard, who was also an active Libraries campaigner in 2011, said “When I became a Councillor in 2013, I promised myself that I would continue the fight to keep Libraries open. Every year, the Conservatives have cut the Library service and refused responsibility for any of the consequences. Every year, Suffolk Libraries have struggled as a result. This cut goes too far and only underlines how little they actually care about the County’s Libraries or listen to the people they claim to represent.”

Cllr Gaylard continued, “What strikes me most is the callous hypocrisy of the administration’s position: they claim to listen, to negotiate with Suffolk Libraries. Yet, when the Library service says that they cannot cope with this cut and go to extraordinary lengths to offer them a viable alternative, they ignore them.”

Cllr Gaylard concluded, “It is heartening to know that important campaigners and activists, who have fought so hard to make our Libraries the excellent resource that they are, support the Labour position. As we head to elections in May, we pledge to immediately reverse these cuts and continue negotiation with Suffolk Libraries if we form an administration after May.”

Notes for Editor

Full Statement from Suffolk Libraries available here:


Sonia Barker’s Speech on Education during Budget debate

Remember ‘No School an Island’? How about no community an island or no pupil an island as an aim? How can this be achieved?

There needs to be far more of a Strategic Overview of services for young people in Suffolk.

Firstly, Home to School Transport. By reversing the proposed cuts to Home to School Transport of £0.55m and by giving Revenue Enhancement to Discretionary Post 16 Transport of £0.20m the amendment will compensate for the £0.2m cut in 16/17, to ensure that charges for discretionary travel does not limit the opportunities for low income families – especially for young people, so they are not prevented from furthering their studies due to rural isolation.

The Social Mobility of Suffolk young people cannot improve if they cannot get to the most appropriate courses for their future direction due to a lack of transport.

Let’s support young people to move literally in the right direction.

Secondly, there must be a far greater coordinated push on Teacher Recruitment and Retention via a Revenue Enhancement of £0.20m – to enhance the resources and support budget to attract far more excellent teachers to Suffolk.

This is a national issue and any long term response or solution must come from central government. However, a local injection of funds for an immediate relief is necessary.

Having spoken to the Department for Education recently, they confirmed this approach and were sympathetic to the amendment’s aim for teacher recruitment.

Used creatively, the extra funding could attract specialist teachers to Suffolk whose expertise and excellent practice could then be shared amongst a number of schools, thereby raising attainment.

Thirdly, reversing the cut made to Early Years Help and Specialist Services CYP Inclusive services fund for Autism and ADHD in 15/16. To provide an enhanced diagnostic service for families of children and young people with ADHD and Autism to enable them to access the services they need.

I really should not have to say yet again that a cut  of £0.25m be reversed for services to support some of the most vulnerable children and their families in Suffolk.  Bearing in mind that many families will face the loss of the specialist support offered by Autism Suffolk as a result of cuts to their service at the end of March 2017.

The Labour Amendment aims to ensure that no school, community, pupil or family is an island marooned by cuts to services and lack of affordable transport.

If you believe in a county where equality of opportunity is paramount, where excellent teachers are encouraged and retained and the most vulnerable pupils are supported, then vote for the Labour Amendment.

SetWidth160-2013-05-14 Sonia Barker informal WS

Ofsted criticise Council School Improvement Service again

Labour Councillors are once again demanding that the Conservative administration on Suffolk County Council do more to ensure children in Suffolk schools are not left behind after another damning report from Ofsted highlighted that a third of pupils in Suffolk do not attend a good school.
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Letter to Lowestoft Journal – Carlton Colville road safety

The following is a letter published in today’s Lowestoft Journal.

Dear Sir,

I have noticed in a recent publication of this paper that there has been a misleading account of who has brought about the planned works to resolve road safety at Carlton Primary School.

It has taken a long time to get where we are now, and much pressure has been brought to bear by local Labour Councillor Sonia Barker on Suffolk County Council to firstly acknowledge the problem they left the school with after School Organisation Review, and secondly that they would need to propose new and improved footways and crossing points, encouraging walking and cycling to stop the gridlock outside the school from parked cars.
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Special Education Support Centres – Victory for Parent Power!

Labour County councillors welcome the announcement from the Conservative Cabinet Member for Education to all councillors today to confirm the halt to the consultation into closure of Suffolk’s Specialist Support Centres.
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Cllr Sandy Martin Budget amendment speech

This budget is about the money that this Council has to spend and the ways in which it decides to spend it or not spend it. But the important issue is not the money itself but the effect that it has on people’s lives. We are not bringing this amendment because we have a pathological hatred of financial reserves, but because we have a deep-seated hatred of ill health, and poor education, and unsafe situations for children, and freezing homes for elderly people, and the despair that goes with a life where everything seems to be getting worse. And we resent seeing the Council sit on the financial means to deal with those issues, but do less and less each year.
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