Morley Observer Column

Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year. I love the carols, the planning and the present buying. And it’s always good to share a bit of festive cheer as my weekends fill up with Christmas fairs and services.

This past weekend was no different – on Saturday I went to two Christmas fairs, stood in for Father Christmas, judged a photo competition and gave out mince pies across the constituency, including in Morley Asda.

With a couple of volunteers I set out trays of mince pies and, while we handed out my 2011 calendars, I also took the opportunity to hear people’s views on recent government decisions.

People usually raise a variety of issues, but on Saturday one thing came up several times. Lots of people wanted to talk about the aspirations they have for their kids and their concerns about funding cuts.

When I was Secretary of State, I was really proud of all the investment we put into improving schools in the area. Morley’s Head Teachers are fantastic at what they do and, with the hard work of staff and students, have overseen some really impressive improvements in results.

Because of this, we’ve seen a change in the way students view their own education and their hopes for the future. Having seen how hard everyone has worked in recent years parents are rightly concerned that getting to college or university will be harder in future.

We have a lot of talented kids across Morley. Too often in the past, financial issues meant they did not stay at school past 16, but chose to go straight into work instead.

That’s why we introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) – a financial support scheme for students who might otherwise not be able to afford to stay in education.The scheme helped more than 9,000 students in Leeds stay in further education this year.

Now the government has announced that this will be the last year students will get the allowance, even if they are only halfway through their course.

I know from talking to students and parents that this will make the decision to stay on at school harder.

It’s not fair that those who have worked so hard to get excellent results are being let down.

That’s why my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to keep fighting for education to be open to everyone with the talent, not just those who can afford it.

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Posted December 15th, 2010 by Ed's team