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Recorder letters: Stephen Timms views on young people and fight poverty

PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 September 2018

East Ham MP Stephen Timms celebrated GCSE success with pupils and staff from Little Ilford School. Picture: RHIANNON LONG

East Ham MP Stephen Timms celebrated GCSE success with pupils and staff from Little Ilford School. Picture: RHIANNON LONG

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

MP is right about young people

Irfan Badshah, Newham, full address supplied, writes:

Stephen Timms is correct to highlight the transformation in the life chances of our young people. A stellar set of GCSE results, despite being conducted under a more challenging system, serve to demonstrate the robustness of teaching standards in our borough and represent the culmination of a long road in education reform.

The current crop of results are the fruition of decades of hard work by the Labour Party in government.

I was born in 1998 and it is now nearly twenty years ago that Tony Blair’s emphasis on “education, education, education,” as a driver of social mobility, saw a record investment, with £15 million spent on building a new school in Forest Gate.

The transformation of dank, flimsy corridors and outdated buildings sinking in squalor to brand new facilities was clearly a palpable factor in driving up standards.

Coupled with a change in leadership, and the attraction of talented, truly inspirational teachers under the London Challenge and TeachFirst, the school has risen from a ‘below average’ OFSTED rating to the sixth best in Britain.

Its exceptional transformation is a story shared by many others in our borough.

It is a matter of immense pride that, whereas ten years previously, a child attending a school in our borough was less likely to progress to university, higher education, or training they are now more likely to do so than their peers in other parts of the country.

This is despite the increased likelihood of having parents who speak little English, or being born into economic deprivation.

The tradition of the Labour Party is in supporting British people in every stage of their life.

It was the party of SureStart which gave our children the best start in life; the party which provided the Education Maintenance Allowance; and the party which instituted increased funding for education.

At a time of internal turmoil for our party, the incredible progress in raising aspiration for our young people should serve as a demonstration of what Labour values are capable of achieving when in government and not divided in opposition.

Continue to fight against poverty

Bishop Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking, writes:

As the new school term starts, too many children will go back hungry because their families’ incomes don’t cover the essentials needed to live in London.

The absence of free school meals over the six-week summer break is becoming increasingly acute for some of our young people.

Even for people in work, life can be tough because of the high cost of London living, with rent and travel cost taking up a huge proportion of monthly income.

The latest figures from KPMG and Living Wage Foundation show that nearly 1 in 5 (19 per cent) of all Londoners are earning below the London Living Wage – these figures don’t account for self-employed people who are often earning below the government minimum.

This is a huge challenge but one we can rise too if we have the heart and the will to get together to make a change.

Efforts to tackle poverty are growing in scale and sophistication and include debt advice centres, foodbanks and advice services. Every day, Christians in parishes across East London are living out their faith in a wide range of ways: running community projects, teaching, working with young people, organising winter night shelters and caring for the vulnerable.

The London Living Wage, the amount calculated as the minimum needed to survive in the capital. Back in 2001, members from the East London branch of Citizens UK brought together churches, mosques, schools and other local institutions to talk about the issues affecting their communities. Out of that meeting, a powerful movement came together and began campaigning for employers in East London and the wider country to pay a Living Wage to their staff and to their outsourced cleaners, caterers and security guards. People marched, petitioned businesses and supported workers to stand up at the AGMs of the same FTSE companies whose headquarters lie south from here in Canary Wharf. We won the support of the London Mayor and a commitment from the London Olympics for some workers at the Olympic site to be paid at the London Living Wage.

Fast forward to today and the current London Living Wage is £10.20 an hour.

A few months ago, Newham Council also committed to making this move; it is vital local government also plays its part in tackling in-work poverty. ’

The Living Wage was only made possible through the effort of determined, organised citizens: ordinary people who took a stand. That’s why today I’m encouraging East Londoners to renew that spirit and tackle poverty head on by working with us.

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