Council leaders abdicating their responsibilities to our future

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devolutionDevolution bids have gone in from various parts of Yorkshire to the chancellor this month. I wonder if any of you outside the council chambers had any say on this? I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of manifesto’s put out by candidates supporting this form of devolution said little if anything about the power grab that is about to take place.
Well I say power grab. These (predominantly Labour) council leaders are certainly trying to grab a bit of power for themselves, but as I have already said on this blog before, the responsibilities they are seeking are not substantial.
For a region with a population larger than Scotland’s and an economy larger than Wales, the comparison between what Wales and Scotland already have and what these council leaders are seeking is miniscule.
However I’ve beaten the drum over this on multiple occasions and, once decisions have been made by the Chancellor and his functionaries, I’m sure I will again. The focus of my anger with this blog post is centred on one particular aspect very close to my heart – education.
After the summer results Yorkshire was again the holder of the wooden spoon for examination performance. Yet again our schools were bottom of the league for 5A*-C including English and mathematics. This is a measure that will eventually become redundant and from next summer the headline figure should be the new progress 8 measure. This is a measure that ultimately will be fairer to schools from deprived areas (of which Yorkshire has more than its fair share and in some surprising parts of the county) because it compares progress from entry to secondary school to the end of secondary school rather than focusing on the socially divisive end of GCSE performance. I do believe Yorkshire schools may actually rise in the tables next year because of this.
However I’m going off on a tangent a little. My point is that, knowing that our schools reputation in comparison to the rest of the country are in tatters have our esteemed council leaders even considered taking on the task of overseeing education in a bit to improve the life chances of our young people and our future generations? The answer is of course NO!
There is a very good reason for this of course and it all goes back to the small minded power grab that these pygmies of local politicians are trying to engineer. They realise that education in Yorkshire requires a regional solution. The problem is too great and too widespread for a single local authority or even a small collection of them to handle on their own. However, as London demonstrated during the last decade, as a region we could turn our schools and hence our future into something special. The problem with people like Peter Box, chairman of the Leeds based West Yorkshire bid and Steve Houghton, chairman of the Sheffield based South Yorkshire (incorporating bits of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire of course) is that they don’t want their power base to be diluted by other parts of the county. They already have plans of, with the help of their fellow council leaders, treating any elected mayor as their personal marionette who will dance to the tune they wish. Peter Box doesn’t want the people of Hull or Scarborough poking their noses into his personal power grab just like Steve Houghton doesn’t want the people of Malton, and York doing the same for his. Never mind that these people are missing an opportunity of a lifetime to take hold of and transform the one big asset that could turn our region into a true Yorkshire Powerhouse – our schools.
The fact these people have completely abdicated their responsibilities to our future generations just so they can get their greasy hands on a little more power fills me with total and utter contempt. The London challenge worked. The evidence and the experience is out there. A Yorkshire challenge could, over time, do the same for Yorkshire schools. It requires a regional solution. It requires politicians and educationalists from across the region to work together collaboratively for the greater good of our children and our future. Unfortunately we are blessed with a plethora of politicians in senior local politics who care more for their own status than they do for our region’s future. Shame on them.

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Wayne Chadburn

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