One of my favourite parts of my job as MP for Streatham are the visits to local schools in the constituency to see the great work being done every day to help our young people learn and grow.
At every level of education, from Primary through to Secondary and College, our local teachers are doing all they can in trying circumstances to support our children through the most critical time in their lives.
Their function is not only about education, learning, and exams, but instead our teachers are dealing with a complex web of new issues, and providing an increasingly broad program of care.
Our children are growing up in the age of social media, where the ability to connect with people from across the world easier than ever before are making challenges of bullying and mental health in school even more pronounced and difficult to manage.
Many young people, while already having to juggle the needs of their education and personal lives, are forced by their personal circumstances to take an extra responsibility of care for their siblings and families.
And as people across our community are all too aware, the effects of youth violence and knife crime are having a devastating impact on families, communities, and schools. Teachers are increasingly having to take on a social care function with their pupils as well as an educational one.
This then is the backdrop to a wider crisis every school in our area is facing – funding.
Those of you who are parents may soon be receiving letters from your local school requesting donations, and many of you have already written to me calling for more government funding to our schools.
In 2017 I ran on a platform opposing the Government’s planned £24m cuts to Lambeth’s schools, and worked with the Fairer Funding campaign. One of my first acts as an MP was to support the successful campaign to save funding promised to Dunraven for new buildings, after then-Education Secretary Michael Gove announced his intention to withdraw it.
I am clear that the cuts to our schools have had a hugely detrimental impact. They have meant that there is simply not the budget for the crucial support and care staff our children need, and our teachers have been left to do the best job they can to fill the gap.
Schools have done their best to make savings in a way that protects the opportunities of their students, but as the letters sent to parents show, even with the best management schools can not entirely mitigate the cost of education cuts on our children’s education.
Presented with the challenges of modern technology, family care, and youth violence, now more than ever we need to invest in our young people’s futures, not make them pay the price for the mistakes of the older generations.