Tuition Fees

I notice at a full meeting of Wirral Council next Monday that Labour councillors are tabling a motion entitled “Lib Dem Student Betrayal”.

Firstly it says tuition fees will triple. This is incorrect. At the moment there’s a cap of £3,000 so universities can charge anything from £0 to £3000. If the new proposals are accepted £9000 is just an upper ceiling for what they can charge. The way the motion is worded you’d think all universities will all charge the most that they can; the truth is they won’t. Universities were only allowed to charge tuition fees if they also gave out bursaries. If the bursaries stay in place, this should offset the tuition fees.

A National Scholarship Programme will mean university students from poorer backgrounds might not pay any tuition fees for the first couple of years.

The pledge was “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”. A number of Lib Dem MPs have already agreed to vote against an increase in fees, such as the Party President Tim Farron. The party has definitely been pressuring for a fairer alternative to the current system which will be extended to part-time students for the first time.

Labour also have the gall to put in their motion “these cuts will reduce social mobility and create a system in which only those young people from affluent families will be able to go to university”.

However it was Labour’s introduction of tuition fees in 2003 & Labour’s wish that 50% of school leavers go to university that has led to this already. I was a student at Liverpool University in the years after tuition fees were brought in. The university population was not reflective of society as the prospect of student debt put people off from poorer backgrounds.

People from larger families were also deterred from going as having subsidised their older brothers and sister through university often their parents didn’t have the financial means to have more than one of their children at university at a time.

I do not have any problem with more young people going to university. Has our economy now or even in three years time got enough graduate-level jobs for them to pay off their student debts and loans after they graduate? In the last few years I have known many graduates struggle to find employment or in the case of postgraduate students turned down for jobs because they’re “over qualified”.

Cabinet meeting – Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MF&RS), Cole Street Primary School closure (and Cathcart Street Primary school) – Part 1

Well, I’ve just returned from another meeting of Wirral Council’s Cabinet.

It started with a surprise change to the agenda (after declarations of interest/minutes of the last meeting) with a presentation by Myles Platt, a Wirral Group Manager for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service on the Fire Service’s consultation on their Integrated Risk Management Plan (although Integrated is spelt wrong on their website)!

This consultation will feed into what MF&RS on the Wirral will be doing over the next year.

The agenda then resumed with the decision to close Cole Street Primary School at the end of this school year (31st August 2011). You may ask what relevance this has to the Bidston & St. James area. When Cole Street Primary School closes, some of the pupils will move to Cathcart Street Primary School.

A number of parents and the Chair of Governors were present for the decision and by the mood of the audience before and after the decision didn’t want to have Cole Street Primary School close, the Chair of Governors addressed the Cabinet and expressed her sadness that after 80 years the school was closing and that they didn’t understand why it wasn’t Cathcart Street school closing instead.

The headteacher of Cathcart Street Primary School also addressed the Cabinet; reassuring them that should Cole Street close they would do their best to help the new pupils and that lessons had been learnt after the recent closure of nearby St. Lawrences, mentioning Open Days and giving parents the opportunity to visit the school. She also mentioned that parts of Cathcart Street would be refurbished to deal with the increased pupil numbers.

The (Interim?) Director of Education explained why a new school (which would’ve led to both being closed) hadn’t been possible. He also mentioned concerns expressed by the MP Frank Field. He pointed out that the capital money received from the Department for Education for new buildings was being spent elsewhere in Wirral.

Cllr Hodson mentioned visiting Cole Street when he had been Mayor and that it had great pupils, was a fabulous school and that the staff put in a lot of effort.