Improving social mobility is the single biggest reason I stood for Parliament. I’ve always believed in the moral imperative to do everything humanly possible to help people, whatever their backgrounds, go as far as their talents will take them.
Education is an essential driver of that social mobility. It is what takes a talent child born into entrenched, generational, disadvantage and allows them to soar and achieve their true potential.
Nowhere is that more important than here in Cheltenham. Here, for many decades, affluent areas have sat cheek by jowl with some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. And it is a passion to heal that gap which underpins so much of my ambition for Cheltenham – for generating new cyber opportunities to attracting new infrastructure investment.
And it’s why I am delighted that, on top of additional schools funding for Cheltenham through the new national funding formula, our town has been awarded a further six-figure grant from the Government’s £140 million Strategic Schools Improvement Fund (SSIF).
This money will go towards closing the attainment gap in Maths at Key Stage 2, primary school children aged between 7 and 11. It will support a broad range of school improvement activities across Gloucestershire including, but not limited to, promoting best practice in leadership and teaching methods. And it will fund initiatives which are sustainable, with support provided by schools, for schools.
I want to congratulate the leadership and staff of Balcarras school whose dedication has helped secure this funding. As Cheltenham’s local GLOWMaths Hub with strong links to Shanghai, Balcarras is well placed to lead this initiative.
Although there is more to do, recent evidence from secondary league tables show schools in the South West are continuing to make progress in narrowing the attainment gap. The gap in results between disadvantaged secondary school pupils and their peers has narrowed by 3.2 per cent since last year and 10 per cent since 2011.
We have a duty to strive for better still.