People often ask me why I got into politics. There are many reasons – such as fighting for lower taxes, stronger borders, better healthcare and a fairer share of investment in the regions. Yet above all, it's because I'm passionate about giving people ladders in life. It shouldn't matter where you come from or who you know – everyone should have the chance to get on and do well.
That's why it's vital we give our youngsters the best possible education. Because schools must give children the support they need to climb as far as their talents can take them. In turn, we must give our hard-working teachers and staff all the help we can.
This time last year, there were lots of scare stories going around – with unfounded rumours about school funding 'cuts'. Yet the truth is that our schools are getting a big funding boost.
From September, Dover district secondary schools will receive £1.23 million extra – an inflation-busting 3.9% increase on the previous year. Sir Roger Manwood's will get 5.5% more per pupil in 2018/19, Astor College 5.3% more, Sandwich Technology 4.7% more, Dover Grammar for Girls 4.4% more, and Dover Christ Church Academy and Dover Grammar for Boys 4.1% more. The total school funding in Kent is more than £1 billion for the first time – the highest amount in the UK.
Historically our pupils have been thousands of pounds worse off than their London peers – an issue I have repeatedly raised with ministers. That's why I was really pleased when the new school funding formula, giving a cash boost to our area, was announced last year. It wasn't supposed to come in until 2020 – so it's great Kent County Council have listened to our calls to take action now. It means that our secondary schools will get millions more for pupils' education – for years and years to come.
This funding will help build on the huge strides we have made in recent years. Teachers across Dover and Deal have been doing an incredible job. New figures reveal that there are 153 additional good or outstanding schools in Kent since 2010 – the biggest increase across the UK. In Dover and Deal alone, 9,643 children are now attending schools rated good or outstanding – an increase of 2,432. Meanwhile, 61.6% of pupils in our area meet the expected levels in reading and maths tests, compared to 53% nationally.
The figures tell one story. Yet we must also remember how each individual teacher and member of staff makes a real difference every day. Take the outreach programme at Whitfield and Aspen, where staff go and help at nurseries across the district. They see youngsters' learning rapidly improve. It is this drive to help every child which we must do everything to support.
There is still more work to do. Yet I'm determined to keep fighting for our schools – so every youngster in Dover and Deal has the best possible start in life.
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