Bob Seely MP's monthly column:

Education is critical to the Island’s future.

As some of you may be aware, I am having a run-in with the Alliance Council — a confused coalition kept in power by Independents, Greens, Lib Dems and Labour.

A few Alliance councillors are good and most try, but overall, they are failing our teachers, parents and children.

There are three problems, and they are getting an ‘F’ for fail on each. First, primary school places. Second, reading standards. Third, home schooled children.

First, school places. Senior teachers have advised that for the good of ALL children a few schools should shut. The Alliance have delayed closures until after council elections.

In plain English, they are putting their re-election chances over the needs of children: unacceptable.

This dreadful decision increases debt, deprives good schools of funding and means that schools have to spend time justifying themselves rather than focussing on standards.

Second, the phonics reading system. England’s ‘phonics’ reading system is a success. Our kids are now amongst the world’s best readers — part of the Tory education success story.

Yet on the Island, we were bottom of the phonics tables with seemingly little interest from left-wing councillors.

So I stepped in, alerting officials in the Department of Education and agreeing two steps.

First, we held a conference for all primary schools last summer in Carisbrooke. As a result, more schools sought support; five in September and a further four this month. Thank you to teachers for their vital work. Reading is at the heart of learning.

Second, I am writing to eight more schools who have not had support. I have done so with the approval of experts and education officials. We need to make sure all our schools have the tools to teach reading well. Island children need it.

Finally, home schooling. Our rate of home-schooled children is three times the national average. Whilst I respect responsible parental choice, I worry a minority of children are not being taught, and are drifting into depression, isolation or worse.

Again there appears little interest from the Alliance, so I and Police Commissioner Donna Jones are writing to the Government.

When councillors do the right thing, I’ll say so, but right now, the ‘Alliance’ and their Green, Labour and Lib Dem supporters need to raise their game.

Letting down children and parents — and refusing to listen to advice from teachers — is not acceptable.