Services under threat

Many residents have expressed shock about further library cuts made by Conservative-run Hampshire County Council: this time the axe has fallen on 29 mobile libraries across the County.

This is a bitter blow to the community. Mobile libraries are a lifeline to a lot of people living in rural areas, particularly elderly and disabled residents. I am particularly disappointed to see they have ignored local residents’ views and cut the library service to Enham Alamein.

The Conservatives have designated Andover library a key library but won’t increase opening hours to the target 50 hours for another two years.

Now museums may be under threat as well

Local people have been put on red alert after it emerged that Hampshire Conservatives have put all of the County’s Museums, Arts Centres and Cultural Services under threat of closure. Hampshire County Council plan to handover control of these vital services to a ‘Trust’, meaning local people no longer have a say on how they’re run, and putting them at risk of more funding cuts and even closure.


Parents in Andover have been shocked by the news that Hampshire County Council local schools will be around 10,000 school places short within the next Decade, and won’t even have enough places for all the reception year children this September. The Conservative led County Council have admitted that there is a shortfall in places for this coming September. And the shortfall is predicted to get even worse in future years!

Temporary classrooms were abolished when the Lib Dems ran the County Council, but with the Conservatives in charge, things are going backwards.
Only five years ago Hampshire closed Shepherd Spring School in Andover leaving other schools with a shortage of places and forced to use temporary class rooms. Tories on Test Valley Council recently ignored local concerns and voted to build houses on the school playing fields. Mums, dads and local campaigners are asking why the County Conservatives failed to see this crisis coming and why they are more concerned with selling land for housing than building schools. Andover Lib Dems are backing parents’ calls for long-term solutions for school places, not the quick fix backwards step of temporary classrooms!

£600,000 pupil premium for Andover

Next year, more than half a million additional children will qualify for the Pupil Premium. In Hampshire, 27,152 children are expected to be eligible, meaning that Hampshire schools are set to benefit from an extra £16.2 million, over £600,000 of this in Andover, to support disadvantaged pupils. The Pupil Premium will be extending its reach to cover any child that has been registered for Free School Meals (FSM) in the past six years. For 2012-13, the Premium will be worth £1.25 billion in total.

These are England’s most disadvantaged pupils, including looked after children, and they are set to benefit from £600 each after the Department for Education announced next year’s Pupil Premium will increase by £112 for each pupil. For too long, social background has been a deciding factor in a child’s chances for the future. As a Liberal Democrat, I believe that in a fair society, a Government should work to overcome this disadvantage and help children reach their full potential. Children who have been eligible for Free School Meals at any point in their school career have consistently lower educational attainment than those who have never been eligible.

Of students gaining three As at A-level in 2008, 30 per cent were privately educated, whereas only 0.5 per cent were eligible for Free School Meals. That is why thanks to Liberal Democrats, the Coalition Government is doing the right thing by supporting schools with additional money to support children from less well-off backgrounds. This will help whole classes work better together and move forward faster.

Launching the new scheme Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather said “As we come to the end of the second term of the Pupil Premium we are seeing across the country how these extra funds are making a difference. Additional tuition, better IT resources and closer work with parents are all examples of how the Pupil Premium is being used to support the most disadvantaged pupils.”

“That’s why I’m so pleased that, next year, we’ll be extending the Pupil Premium to another half a million children, and increasing the money that schools get to £600 per pupil. This means that, as a result of Liberal Democrats in government, more children will get a better start in life”.

To hear more on this initiative listen to the interview I did with Faye Marsh of Andover Sound at

Children’s centres threatened by county council cuts

“One of the few policies from the last Labour Government that received universal praise was the setting up and funding of Children’s Centres” says Romsey’s County Councillor, Mark Cooper. “Sure Start, provided mainly in the Children’s Centres, is designed to give all children, whatever their background or financial circumstances, an equal start in life”.
There are 81 Children’s Centres in Hampshire and they are funded in full through the ‘Sure Start Early Years Childcare Grant’ totalling £16.9 million in 2010/2011. The Coalition Government has retained the £16.9 million grant for the coming financial year.
“Unfortunately, the cash is not ring-fenced” says Cllr Cooper. “The County Council is proposing to divert some of the Sure Start grant away from the very young and sometimes vulnerable children who benefit from the work of Children’s Centres to other parts of the education budget. The County’s plan is to cut the number of centres from 81 down to 53, a 35% reduction, and stripping £6 million out of the Sure Start budget. The £6 million will then be used elsewhere in Hampshire’s education system”.
The consultation on these changes will run until 14th March. “I urge all of those who are concerned about the welfare of young children to look at the Consultation Document on Hampshire County Council’s website and to contact the Save Our Children’s Centres campaign on [email protected]“.
The Hampshire Cabinet  member who is solely responsible for taking the decision on the future of Hampshire’s Children’s Centres is Cllr Roy Perry.

Schools graduation ceremonies

Yesterday I attended the gradaution ceremonies for Knights Enham and Roman Way schools at the Lights in Andover. This is the third year these cermonies have taken place and every year they attract more schools and more local school children and their parents.

 As in previous years the children were well presented and well behaved and a credit to their schools and parents. The speeches, from the mayor, a represntative of Winchester Univesity and the head of Harroway school were thankfully short but to the point. The future of Andover depends on its children and the education we give them. Yesterday’s graduates showed how good that is and what a great future they, and Andover, have.

School governors needed

The new primary school for East Anton will be opening in Easter 2010 and the county council are now looking for governors for this school to work with the local authority in selecting the headteacher and making other important decisions before the school opens. They need volunteers representing the broader local community as well as representation from potential parents and someone to provide a staff perspective. If you are interested let me know.

Full details on what is involved in being a school governor can be found at the following address

Speeding on King Arthur’s Way

A number of residents have commented about cars speeding along King Arthur’s Way particularly the straight stretch outside Knight’s Enham School. There is a 20’s plenty sign to the north of the main school entrance but it is in the wrong place, too close to the school gates and after the school crossing patrol at the northern entrance to the school grounds. It should be be moved further north, opposite the entrance to Meliot Rise, on the bend to remind drivers to slow down before they reach the crossing patrol.

I have raised this with the county schools department and our county councillor who has promised to follow up and get this sign moved to a better position.

Improving Andover’s schools

At Thursday’s meeting of Test Valley’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee Hampshire’s Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Cllr David Kirk, reported back on Education in Test Valley.The report was specifically requested because of borough councillor’s concerns about low standards in Andover’s schools.

 Cllr Kirk was able to report that exam results in Hampshire and in Test Valley were better than the national average. He also reported very improved results for Winton School. Winton was one of six schools in Hampshire designated national challenge schools by the secretary of state in June 2008. National challenge schools are those where less than 30% of pupils achieved five or more GCSE A to C grades (including both English and maths). In 2007 Winton achieved only 17%. In 2008 this increased to 31%,

 I joined Cllr Kirk in applauding the improvement and in congratulating the staff especially the head of Winton on the improved results. However we must take the results in context. Winton’s 2008 results are the same as 2003 and the average over the six years (2003 – 2008) is just under 30%. Averages for Harroway over the same period are just 27% and for John Hanson 45%. Meanwhile across the county the average was 53% and has been 50% – 60% for the past five years. GCSE results for Andover’s schools have not improved over the past five years.

I would expect some effort to be made to bring them up towards the county average. When quizzed neither Cllr Kirk nor his education officer could give any assurances that targets had been set for local schools to raise their results. This I believe is essential. While a great deal of good work is being done to improve attainment in Andover it is wasted unless realistic targets are set.

 The ensuing debate centred on standards and aspirations in Andover with claims that low unemployment levels in Andover contributed to low academic expectations and Cllr Kirk stating that parents who send their children out of town to school were not making a “well informed choice.” He also implied part of the problem in Andover’s secondary schools is the poor standards in our primary schools.

It is time we stopped looking for excuses for Andover’s poor academic records and looking for culprits for the low results. Local schools are working to raise standards. I hope to see the county education department investing time and money into working with them and setting targets and deadlines to achieve higher standards.

Careers evening at King Arthur’s Hall

A careers evening being held at King Arthur’s Hall on 11th September. It is for those aged 16-24 years, for school leavers, or those not in education or employment training.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 19 can claim £30 a week Education Maintenance Allowance while on the Andover CHOICES (e2e) program. If you are interested in joining contact Wendy Holmes on 01264 360137 or email [email protected].

 If you need information about jobs, apprenticeships or training go to the careers evening at Blenheim Youth Club, King Arthur’s Hall on 11th September between 6pm and 8pm.

For further details see the attached pdf file.


Half hearted speed controls outside our schools

Twenty is Plenty

Hampshire County Council have agreed in principle to 20 mph speed limits outside schools. But the limits are not legally enforcable and the council expects the schools to pay for the signs.

The “20 is plenty” campaign launched by Hampshire County Council this week has been condemned by Liberal Democrats as ineffective. County Councillor Adam Carew who sits on Hampshire County Council’s environment policy review group and is a school governor said “Although we welcome the 20 is Plenty campaign as a very positive idea in principle, the scheme lacks teeth ! ”

The 20 mph being offered outside Hampshire Schools is purely voluntary and can be flouted by the very minority who cause the safety problems. This is not good enough. What schools need is a compulsory speed limit that can be enforced if required. To make matters worse the Conservative run council seems to be forcing schools to pay for the signs themselves or find private sponsors. Each sign costs £200 plus installation charges if required. If the County are really committed to this campaign and getting speeds reduced outside our schools they should offer the signs free of charge.