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What would a Conservative victory on Thursday mean for local government?

The Conservative message, that completing Brexit will allow us to move on and focus on other matters, has resonated with those I have spoken to on the doorstep. But some have been disappointed that the Conservative Manifesto has been cautious over what that will mean (beyond a milder and more plausible spending spree than proposed by Labour). The point has often been made that the “take back control” spirit of 2016 applies to more than Brexit. If so, then surely it would include greater individual freedom and local communities having greater autonomy. “Take back control,” should not merely mean being bossed around by the man in Whitehall rather than the man in Brussels. What would be the implications for local government if the Conservatives win the General Election?

The Conservative Manifesto says:

“Local government is the bedrock of our democracy. We are proud that Conservative councils have led the way in helping keep council taxes low, providing value for money and supporting local communities.

We will ensure that councils continue to deliver essential local services – which is why they received a substantial funding increase in the most recent Spending Round. Local people will continue to have the final say on council tax, being able to veto excessive rises. This does not prevent councils raising more – but it does ensure that they will need to have solid and convincing reasons for doing so.

We remain committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK. Our ambition is for full devolution across England, building on the successful devolution of powers to city region mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners and others, so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny. We will publish an English Devolution White Paper setting out our plans next year.

Through our City and Growth Deals we have already delivered more than £9 billion of funding across England, and almost £3 billion to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Through bodies like the Northern Powerhouse, Western Gateway and Midlands Engine we will drive greater levels of foreign investment into the UK, promoting our towns, cities and counties around the world. As part of our plans for full devolution we will also invite proposals from local areas for similar growth bodies across the rest of England, such as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

This is an agenda which shows that the days of Whitehall knows best are over. We will give towns, cities and communities of all sizes across the UK real power and real investment to drive the growth of the future and unleash their full potential.”

As a former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is an instinctive localist. Of course, big public sector infrastructure projects will inevitably tend to go vastly over budget and be eye-wateringly poor value for money. But some kind of regional say on capital spending might provide some kind of check on the vanity.

So far as current spending is concerned, it is worth noting that “austerity” has been illusory for central government spending overall, but genuine for local authorities. Councils have responded well to the challenge by reforming the way they operate and actually achieving higher satisfaction rates for local services. So far as “the final say on council tax” is concerned, the question is, at what point this will kick in. If councils are allowed to get away with increases above inflation it is a pretty weak protection.

On housing supply, the Manifesto grasps the need to woo the Nimbys rather than confront them. It says:

“Crucially, however, we need to make sure homes are built in a way that makes sense for the people already living in the area and for the families moving in.”

How is it to be done? By adopting the agenda of Create Streets. Or as the Manifesto puts it:

“Beautiful, high-quality homes. We will ask every community to decide on its own design standards for new development, allowing residents a greater say on the style and design of development in their area, with local councils encouraged to build more beautiful architecture.”

Regular readers will know I regard the key to making new housing popular is to break with the brutalist past and embrace a beautiful future of neo-classicism. It is to Theresa May’s credit that work on this agenda by the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission is now “oven ready”. The champions of ugliness will be the establishment forces – the planners and architects. They think they know best. The allies of beauty are the people. If people are given the power to choose they will choose beauty.

So far as boosting the chance of home ownership for those in social housing is concerned, what is needed is a right to shared ownership. This should include an initial offer of a free ten per cent stake, in return for taking on responsibility for minor repairs. But the Manifesto is rather feeble and just says:

“We will reform shared ownership, making it fairer and more transparent. We will simplify shared ownership products by setting a single standard for all housing associations, thereby ending the confusion and disparity between different schemes.”

There is also a pathetic comment that “we will evaluate new pilot areas” for the right to buy for housing association tenants. That is a retreat from the full right to buy promised to them in the 2015 Manifesto which still hasn’t been delivered.

The other crucial area is to release more surplus public sector land for housing development. This is not mentioned.

Still, it is better to over-deliver than to break promises.

The quiet revolution of independent state schools (with academies as well as free schools) would continue under the Conservatives. This is the most obvious area of retreat for municipal empires. The great unknown is social care. The plan is to “build a cross-party consensus to bring forward an answer that solves the problem, commands the widest possible support, and stands the test of time. That consensus will consider a range of options…” Will that include taking the role from councils and giving it to the NHS? That would be my guess.

The upshot could be that councils have more money and power in some areas (such as transport and basic local services) but have a diminished role when it comes to schools and social care.

Politically, the most important challenge is to stop the blockage when it comes to supplying more attractive new homes. Should the Conservatives be lucky enough to win on Thursday, it should not be treated as a chance to relax on this imperative. It should be treated as a final chance.

 

 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Cleverly: We need one last push, with your help, to deliver Brexit, stop Corbyn – and win

James Cleverly is Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is MP for Braintree.

On Thursday, voters will go to the polls in an election unlike any I have seen before. The stakes are high. The choice is stark. And we have just five days to secure the result we need.  Nine seats stand between us and the majority that would allow us to get things done. To deliver Brexit, bring the country back together and move forward.

All 635 Conservative candidates will back the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – that’s the deal, by the way, that we were told he’d never get. We will re-introduce the Withdrawal Agreement by Christmas and leave the EU in January.

Just think what we could achieve then. We’d be able to refocus the efforts and energy of Government and Parliament on the ambitious agenda the Prime Minister presented in our manifesto. On levelling up education funding, helping families onto the housing ladder, supporting local businesses and boosting the number of nurses in our NHS.

A vote for any other party is a vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten, leading a chaotic, Remain alliance propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. His promise to respect the referendum result in tatters. His flimsy commitment to the Union predictably abandoned at the first sniff of power. 2020 squandered to two divisive referendums.

Voting Conservative is the only way to end the paralysis that has characterised the last three and a half years and restore faith in the democratic system we all live by. Voters told us what they wanted in 2016. It’s a shocking indictment of contemporary politics that we are the only major party prepared to deliver it.

But the threat of Corbyn goes beyond the damage he would do to public faith in democracy. It goes beyond, even, the economic damage he would inflict on hardworking families and vital public services. Corbyn would fail in Government’s primary responsibility – which is to keep its people safe.

Whereas Labour’s post war Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, saw NATO as embodying the ‘spiritual union’ of the west, Corbyn has said the peacekeeping alliance should be scrapped. No matter that over the last 70 years it has halted Soviet aggression and helped to prevent a third world war.

He would undermine our armed forced, disempower the police and inflict irreversible damage on our closest security alliances. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has turned its back on the party’s traditional support, mutating into something which an ever-rising number of former Labour MPs feel compelled to urge the British public to vote against. As Ivan Lewis put it last week, it’s not the Labour party of our parents or grandparents. And it’s led by a man entirely unfit to be Prime Minister.

Since becoming Party Chairman, I’ve visited candidates and spoken to constituents up and down the country. The fear people feel at the prospect of a Corbyn premiership is palpable. And we have five days to make sure that doesn’t happen.

We didn’t want this election, but we do need it. And we need to win it. We can’t do that without you.

General elections require a special kind of commitment from members and activists. General elections in deepest winter event more so. I’ve seen first-hand the dedication of our associations and supporters over the past five weeks, but as we enter the final five days we need one last push.

In 2017, 51 MPs were returned with majorities of less than a thousand. That’s 51 results potentially determined by an extra hour on the doorstep, an extra evening delivering or telephone canvassing. In a tight election, these ‘extras‘ makes all the difference. We need just nine more seats to get Brexit done and move our country forward.

So here’s my ask to you. I need you to find the time for just a couple more hours leafletting and on polling day to work with our candidates. Whatever you can give our candidates across the country. When we work together, the Conservative Party can deliver incredible results. Just look at the famous victories of 2015 or 1979.  Those victories were not just delivered by our Party’s leaders or manifestos.

They were delivered by you, our members. Taking the argument to the doorsteps of the UK and making the case for a Conservative majority government. I don’t want any of us on Friday thinking, ‘what more could I have done?’ as we look down the barrel of years more in-fighting, dithering and delay.

Like our candidates, I will be pounding the pavements. Like our councillors, I will be wearing my knuckles out knocking on doors. Like our association chairmen, I will be making sure that come December 13th we have the majority we need to take our country forward.  I hope you will join me.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The campaign, week five. Johnson holds his ground – and aims to end next week where he began. With getting Brexit done.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-12-05-at-16.36.15 The campaign, week five. Johnson holds his ground – and aims to end next week where he began. With getting Brexit done. War on terror ToryDiary Terrorism Tax State Schools Scotland schools North NHS National Insurance Contribution National Insurance Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour John McDonnell MP Jeremy Corbyn MP homeland security Highlights Education Economy donald trump Conservatives CCHQ Brexit Party   Source: Politico.

Lord Ashcroft’s latest General Election Dashboard, published earlier this week, found that, when it came to recent campaign events, “four in ten voters recalled nothing at all”.  Our proprietor also noted a tendency for both left and right-leaning voters to remember stories and incidents which backed up views they hold already.

This suggests that ConservativeHome’s opening position, set out when we began this series of Friday campaign summaries, has proved accurate to date: namely, that bad campaign weeks don’t usually matter in general elections – and that good and bad campaigns affect the result much less than some suppose.

Jeremy Corbyn has fought much the same operation as in 2017, doubling down and widening out on higher spending pledges, and making the centrepiece of his effort the preposterous claim that Boris Johnson plans to sell the NHS to Donald Trump.

Johnson has fought a very different campaign to that of 2017.  Admittedly, his target voters are the same as Theresa May’s were then – the “just about managings”, as they used to be called.  But his means of appealing to them have been very different.

The manifesto has been kept risk-free; the Chancellor has not been absent; TV debates have been minimised – and executed without major cock-ups (so far).  The terror attack at London Bridge didn’t derail the Prime Minister.  He seems to have got through Donald Trump’s visit without damage.

The sum of events to date is that Labour, as last time, has risen in the polls.    That is as likely to be because the party has had more media exposure than outside election time as for any other reason.  Electoral Calculus now predicts a Tory majority of 28 – well down from the 72 it recorded when we opened this series.

But the Conservatives – unlike in 2017 – have seen their ratings increase, too.  The most probable explanation is that many voters indeed believe that Britain should “get Brexit done” – and find themselves settling on that view, as polling day approaches, regardless of the day-to-day campaigning ups and downs.

If anything during the last four weeks has made a difference, it appears to have been the weakening of the third and fourth parties: the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party.  But both are still in the field and the struggle will be complex – far more so at regional and constituency level than Electoral Calculus’ headline total takes into account.

Its findings must be mediated through those local variants: in particular, the separate-but-related contests taking place in Scotland, in the Leave-backing Midlands & North, and in Remain-leaning London with its prosperous hinterland.  If Johnson can do well in all three, that majority should be higher; if does badly, it won’t be there at all.

The sum of polls suggests that the Conservatives will pull off a win.  The last five how Tory leads of ten, twelve, seven, nine and 13 points, according to Britain Elects.  As we write, there is no suggestion of Corbyn closing the gap; rather, if anything, of it opening up again.

Labour could yet close the divide for a mix of reasons: if there is large-scale tactical voting; if the vote distribution works for it; if its ground campaign is sufficiently strong; if the polls are “wrong” – and perhaps above all if there is differential turnout that favours the party.  Is all this possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.

Downing Street and CCHQ cannot afford to take the chance.  Unlike this website or other observers, they cannot afford to gamble that the campaign will end up making no demonstrable difference to anything very much.  They must claw and scrabble for every vote during the final week of this campaign.

Team Johnson that the election will be won by whoever frames the question that voters will ask themselves in the polling booth.  If it’s: “let’s get Brexit done”, then they believe that Johnson will gain his majority.  That’s where the Tory campaign began.  That’s where they want it to end.

There is a quiet sense in Number Ten that Corbyn and his team haven’t developed a framing of their own for this contest.  So expect to see the Prime Minister and company return to their theme over the weekend: break the Parliamentary logjam, get Brexit done – and then Britain can move on.

Downing Street is keen to stress what might be called the populist part of its programme for the first hundred days of a new Tory Government: more education spending, tougher sentencing, higher NHS charges for migrants.  It claims not to have tried to shape yesterday’s reporting emphasis on national insurance tax cuts.

Our nagging worry is: what about voters who may not want to get Brexit done, but are nonetheless apprehensive about Corbyn and John McDonnell’s tax plans?  Will there be nothing in the last few days to help persuade them that a Corbyn Government would plunder their wallets, risk their jobs and threaten their livelihoods?

Weeks One, Two and Three of this series saw the Conservatives doing well – so much so that in that third week we warned against unrealistic expectations.  Week Four saw Corbyn make some progress.  In this final week, Week Five, he seems to have stalled.  But there are still seven tense days to go.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

John Bald: Education was once a source of pride in Scotland. It is now a serious embarrassment to the SNP.

John Bald is a former Ofsted inspector and has written two books on the history of writing and spelling. He is Chairman of the Conservative Education Society.

Ten out of ten to PISA, the OECD’s international testing organisation, for releasing its 2018 survey of 15-year-olds in the week before the election. It showed a six point improvement in reading scores, and nine points in maths, both subjects that are tested in primary schools, but a five point drop in science, which is not.

I won’t be the only one surprised to see Estonia, which spends 30 per cent below the OECD average, at the top of the leader board, though not to see the lowest-attaining pupils in some provinces in China achieving as much in maths as the most able in some other jurisdictions. Less encouraging is the finding that there has been no significant improvement in overall standards in the last ten years, despite a worldwide increase of 15 per cent in spending on education. Only one in ten of the huge sample was able to distinguish fact from opinion on the basis of the tests, and a tenth were five years below average in reading. We are not the only country with work to do.

Over recent months, the theme of these articles has been that Conservative Ministers have succeeded in restoring education to its proper purposes, while acknowledging errors and the work that remains to be done. A huge burden of government-imposed drudgery has been lifted from schools, not least in the examination system, where the non-qualification of AS has been abolished, and basic honesty restored. The threat to teachers’ integrity from pressure to cheat in coursework was a scandal that set a damaging example to young people, who could see that cheating paid. The best work, including from Michaela and the West London Free School, has been glorious, and the removal of the dead hand of local bureaucracy has allowed heads in Great Yarmouth, and even parts of Harlow, to open up genuine opportunities for their pupils and let them work in peace and safety.

Against this, our opponents are proceeding as if nothing positive had happened at all. Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, riding on the admiration she has won for seizing her own second chance with both hands, wants to get rid of the testing that has begun to raise standards, and the independent inspection by Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectors, whose purpose is to tell the truth, in contrast to the combination of spin and cover-up of local authority inspectors. Labour hated independent inspection, and forced the best inspector we’ve ever had, Sir Mike Tomlinson, to retire early in order to install a place-man who took personal control of the whole system and turned it into an ignorant and tyrannical political instrument.

Amanda Spielman and her senior colleagues have been working like trojans to put this right, and the improvement in her budget will enable her to inspect properly once again, and not just read the paperwork and walk round the school. One key point is bullying – a negative in our PISA report was a quarter of our fifteen year olds were suffering from it, and it is too often tolerated in the name of inclusion. Extra time will give inspectors at least some chance of finding out what is really happening and putting a stop to abuse. It’s not long since I heard a parent ask a school governor – one of ours – about bullying in an outstanding secondary school, to be told “I know the bullying policy” – as if what was written in a policy reflected the real experience of the pupils. Nobody in education approves of bullying any more than bishops approve of sin. The point is to do something about it, and the idea that bullying or violence in a school are the responsibility of the head needs to be enforced as well as understood.

I seriously doubt whether Rayner understands how inspection operates, or the gross unfairness that has resulted from its decline. She is simply inviting people to vote for her and everything will be put right. Improve opportunities at 16+? Chickenfeed. Six years paid study leave for whoever wants it, and all tuition fees removed at a stroke. She might recall Gordon Brown’s ridiculous education allowance, which was simply used as a massive tax dodge, as indeed might the Lib Dems with their £10k education allowance for every person. The Lib Dems in coalition did their best to obstruct nearly every reform, and were largely responsible for the points mean prizes attitude that has grown up at GCSE. They were also largely responsible, aided and abetted by Lord Willetts, for using university tuition fees as a graduate tax – a brains tax – in a way that has added considerably to the burdens suffered by the young people they were setting out to help. The programmes of both main opposition parties are designed to appeal to activists rather than parents, and this may well prove to be a mistake.

The Conservative alternative is equally important in Scotland and Wales. PISA tests are not the whole story, but, while Scotland did nearly as well as England in reading, it did far worse in maths and science, while Wales is the only home country to be below the OECD average in all three subjects. Education was once a source of pride in Scotland, if not always with justification, but is now a serious embarrassment to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, as it is failing to deliver improvement or to reduce inequality. Wales, alas, is attempting to address its own long term problems by importing its curriculum from Scotland. They would both do better to visit Michaela.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

John Bald: Tolerating poor behaviour in schools is a major threat to the mental health of teachers

John Bald is a former Ofsted inspector and has written two books on the history of writing and spelling. He is Chairman of the Conservative Education Society.

Mental health is a big issue in education across the developed world, and it is time we started to do something about it. For teachers as well as pupils, it appears to originate in stress and anxiety, though the point at which these become a threat to health is impossible to pin down. Each person’s experience is different from birth, and attempting to isolate single factors, using the methods of sociology, can never get to the heart of individual cases. For example, our opponents see stress as the result of tests, and prefer continuous assessment and coursework. One of my sixteen year old pupils, by contrast, found the pressure of continuous coursework so demoralising that he could not put pen to paper and needed hospital treatment. I stopped short of that at university, where mine was one of the first to use continuous assessment, but completely understood how he felt – a system designed to reduce pressure from final examinations had, for me, the effect of making it last four years.

For children, stress often begins with the transition from home to school. If they don’t know how to get along with others, their instinct can often be one of aggression or withdrawal, and I won’t forget the wonderful atmosphere of family lunch I saw with four and five year olds at Wentworth nursery school in Hackney while I was a consultant there. It was exactly the same as that at Michaela, for children six years older, many of whom candidly admitted that they had been allowed to mess around all day in their primary schools and were now happy to work and learn, part of which included lunchtime conversation. Everyone’s best was good enough – including their teachers’ – and they were encouraged to celebrate it, “loud and proud”.

The policy of tolerating poor behaviour in the name of inclusion, still tacitly practised in many schools, is a major threat to the mental health of teachers, as it prevents them from doing their work. I’ve seen a class deliberately reduce a teacher to tears during an inspection, and when I intervened to restore order, telling them that they were not going to do that to one of my colleagues in my presence, the school complained, saying that education was a tough business and that not everyone survived. In the East End in the seventies, I had a pupil who would now almost certainly be assessed as having Tourette’s syndrome – which no-one had heard of – whose continual outbursts nearly drove me to distraction. Others have not been so fortunate, and careers and lives have been wrecked when they have been driven beyond endurance. Teachers should have the right to impose an immediate and substantial detention, organised by senior management, and heads who don’t ensure good behaviour in their schools should be required by Ofsted to change their ways.

The next issue is failure: real, imagined, or feared. In 2005, when we were ruled by Blair, Brown, and Balls and did not have an education department, an 11 year old pupil of mine couldn’t sleep because every morning the teacher would read out the scores achieved by each child in the mock SAT test they sat the morning before. They did this in English and maths each morning, a practice that, alas, persists. My pupil’s scores were not good, as she was late in learning to read. I made a quick trip to Waitrose to buy some nice things for tea for her and her mother, and we composed a letter to her headteacher. The practice ceased, and she is now a First-class honours graduate with a PhD, but she is by no means the only high flyer to suffer in this way. For some, anything short of an A* is failure – I know of one who was seriously upset with 11 A*s and an A – and this needs to change. People develop at different rates, and I agree with Angela Rayner that many of us need more than one chance.

The problem is international. The 14 year old son of a friend in Spain has three hours of additional maths tuition a week, in addition to two hours homework each night. Peter Gumbel, who has had two daughters in French schools, describes a regime virtually founded on stress, in which even recruits to the top Grandes Écoles are commonly given grades of 2 or 3 out of 20 for their work, until they learn to think as their teachers think. Lucy Crehan’s “Clever Lands”, a self-funded journey through school systems across the world, lists many similar examples alongside her praise of Finland. The most chilling to me was the Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down.” Much of Crehan’s book is taken up by descriptions of alternative education for pupils who have failed in the school system, and been written off as useless. The systems themselves are not always particularly clever.

Ours certainly isn’t, but some simple steps could easily improve it. Abolishing tests and publication of results is not one of them. They were introduced in the early nineties to combat chronic and perpetual underachievement and the new checks on phonics, tables, and baseline have not caused the stress claimed by our opponents. Targets for secondary schools have not eliminated very low standards, whether or not the schools are called academies, but they have cut down the number of extreme cases, and made it clear that languishing is not an option.

Putting test results in context, and giving schools a fair chance to improve, is another matter. Heads have reason to fear for their jobs where test results are poor. However, the micromanagement that too many engage in, effectively requiring teachers to write down everything they do, and hand in planning, is a form of executive bullying that does not happen anywhere else in Europe. It harms teachers’ family lives and mental health, causes many to leave early, and needs to be stopped – exhortation won’t do it, but Ofsted’s new framework, and its decision not to consider schools’ internal data, might help. Our opponents need to abandon their dogmatic attachment to mixed ability teaching, which hobbles the most able pupils, while making the least able feel frustrated and inadquate. The “differentiation” that is supposed to make it work cannot give them the very small steps and additional explanation that they need in order to succeed. The emerging evidence from brain research – “The Learning Brain” by Blakemore and Frith remains a good starting point – shows us that all learning involves the formation and consolidation of networks in the brain. This can’t happen if pupils are overloaded or rushed. In the end, a solution to the growing problem of mental health may be found in a combination of brain research, and common sense.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students

Westlake Legal Group Broderick-C-dunn How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students Tuition schools private school private education parenting networking Madeira Family Education alumni network
Broderick C. Dunn, now an attorney, attended high school at Woodberry Forest School and remains active in its alumni network. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

Growing up in Woodbridge, Broderick C. Dunn attended public school, but when it came time for high school, his parents wanted to give him a private school option.

In 1996, Dunn was accepted to both Woodberry Forest and another private boarding school in the Northern Virginia region. “(My parents) sat me down and said, ‘We want this to be your decision. Where do you want to go?’” he recalls. “I said (the other private school) is close to home, there are girls there and I think it would be a lot of fun.”

Shortly thereafter, Dunn’s parents got a call from Tony Gould, a Woodberry Class of 1960 alum who served on the school’s Board of Trustees. Back then, he would contact the families of every newly admitted student from around the Washington, DC area. Gould spoke to Dunn’s mother for an hour. Afterward, “my parents said, ‘I know we said this was going to be your decision but after talking to Mr. Gould, we think Woodberry is the best place for you.’ I went to Woodberry and I ended up really enjoying it.”

Westlake Legal Group kids-in-uniform-running-out-of-school How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students Tuition schools private school private education parenting networking Madeira Family Education alumni network
© Monkey Business / stock.adobe.com

One of Dunn’s mother’s concerns was that he have enough spending money while attending Woodberry. Gould, also a Girls and Boys Club board member, got Dunn his first job in Dale City as a day camp counselor, which he did for four straight summers.

This post originally appeared in our November 2019 issue. For more education-related content, subscribe to our newsletter.

This was just one example of how Dunn, a 2000 Woodberry alum, benefited from the school’s vast alumni network filled with college students to those who graduated more than 50 years ago. While the region’s public schools rank as some of the top in the nation, private schools offer alumni networks filled with a bevy of opportunities, including networking, professional advice and mentoring. For some local parents, it’s that long-term benefit that makes the financial investment in private school worth it.

Westlake Legal Group people-working-together-at-table How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students Tuition schools private school private education parenting networking Madeira Family Education alumni network
© Rawpixel.com / stock.adobe.com

Making Connections

Jacob Geiger, Woodberry’s director of strategic communications, explains why he thinks alumni are so connected to the school. “We think a lot of it is because they felt a lot of connection when they were students,” he says. “We want them to always feel like they have a root here. They are part of this community forever, not just for those three or four years as a student.”

In November 2017, the all-boys school launched Woodberry Connect, an online platform for alumni to post about a variety of needs, such as internships, job opportunities, professional advice or networking. About 1,000 of the school’s roughly 6,500 living alumni members joined in the first year.

It also has 14 regional associations in cities where the biggest pockets of alumni live, such as DC, Dallas, Charlotte and Richmond partaking in networking events or service projects. “We see these groups will get together even when there is not a school-organized event,” Geiger says. For example, “They might get together to watch the big rivalry football game each year with Episcopal in Alexandria.”

Westlake Legal Group kids-at-desks-doing-work How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students Tuition schools private school private education parenting networking Madeira Family Education alumni network
© Monkey Business / stock.adobe.com

The school often has alumni come back to speak to current students. The talks are less about telling students to take specific classes or go to certain colleges and more stressing the importance of skills like being trustworthy and reliable. “I think it helps our boys to hear that from someone who was in their shoes in the past,” Geiger says. “We can tell them that as teachers or parents, but there is a level of buy-in when an alum tells them, ‘Hey, this is what has served me well in my professional and personal life.’ That is different from hearing it from Mom and Dad or hearing it from a teacher who is in your ear every day.”

The students enjoy getting a chance to meet with the alumni because they have shared the same experience they are going through now. “When you are away at school you are doing something that is different than a lot of your friends at home are doing,” Geiger says. “It is nice to know that there have been people who have been through a similar experience, but also it is great because it creates these connections for eventually going to college, for careers down the road—just like you’d expect from a good university alumni network.”

Westlake Legal Group madera-students-learning-from-teacher How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students Tuition schools private school private education parenting networking Madeira Family Education alumni network
Madeira students all graduate with three internships. Here, history teacher Andrew Sharp, director of co-curriculum, advises students. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

When the time came for Dunn to choose a college, he wanted a smaller liberal arts school and had his heart set on Williams College. Gould had stayed in touch with Dunn and set up a meeting for him to meet his uncle, a former trustee at the Massachusetts school. Afterward, Dunn received a letter of recommendation from the trustee as a part of his ultimately successful application.

He also met with alumni while attending Washington and Lee University School of Law to explore different aspects of the legal profession. While in Richmond, he became active in its local Woodberry chapter. Today, he is active in the school’s DC chapter and even served as president.

Dunn is now a partner at Cook Craig & Francuzenko PLLC in Fairfax handling labor, employment and business litigation cases. “Whether you graduated 10 years ago or 20 years ago or 50 years ago, I think the Woodberry experience binds you and Woodberry trains you to take advantage of that network … It opens doors and puts you in contact with people from various backgrounds, various countries, various lifestyles and I think teaching you how to interact with those people and giving you access to that is helpful,” Dunn says.

Westlake Legal Group students-at-madera-all-girls-school-doing-work How private school educations in NoVA reap long-term benefits for students Tuition schools private school private education parenting networking Madeira Family Education alumni network
Madeira’s U.S. history class includes prep for a five-week Capitol Hill internship. Here, history teacher Andrew Sharp and Tasia Harris, assistant director of co-curriculum, help students prepare. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

A Modern Network

St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria is another educational institution that offers alumni multiple ways to stay connected to their alma mater. Saints Link serves as a secure networking platform for alumni to post job opportunities, internship possibilities and offer mentorship to others. Active for two years, there are more than 800 registered users. Alumni also have access to the school’s online directory where they can personally reach out to others.

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© Nestor / stock.adobe.com

The school also invites alumni to speak at the school for special events, like when upper school students sign the honor code, a commitment promoting an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Meredith Robinson, senior director of Alumni and Parent Engagement, notes one faculty member who teaches AP government brings back multiple alums to speak to his class, including successful entrepreneurs and a United States District Attorney. “It reinforces those lessons that are being taught in the classroom by showing real life examples from this community,” she says. “I think (the alumni network) helps set expectations. I think it shows where our students can get to based on the foundation that was built here but also through hard work.”

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Emily Barre (far left, in a science class at Madeira), now a junior at Duke University, did an internship at a biomedical device company during high school. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

A History of Mentoring

Over 100 years ago, Madeira founder, Lucy Madeira, wrote in her first alumnae bulletin, “The alumnae of any school are its greatest asset. What they think and say of the school makes or breaks it.” The McLean-based school has more than 7,000 living alumnae that host student interns in their workplaces, participate in mentor clubs and affinity groups on campus and speak at campus events.

“Madeira’s mission is ‘Launching women who change the world,’ so not only are Madeira alumnae mentors to current students, they are part of a long tradition of preparing Madeira women to lead,” says Susie Keller of the school’s Alumnae and Development Office.

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Students at Madeira learn how to prep for professional internships. Here, a student looks at clothing appropriate for a professional setting. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

Every Madeira student has a five-week internship embedded into their curriculum each year from 10th through 12th grade. Sophomores work in community organizations while juniors are on Capitol Hill and seniors focus on their career interests and passions. “By granting over 12,000 internships, Madeira has given its girls unparalleled access to the real world and built lifelong confidence,” Keller says. “Madeira has offered this co-curriculum experiential internship for over 50 years so alumnae who were themselves beneficiaries of this life-changing experience as high schoolers love to ‘pay it back’ to today’s students by offering them meaningful internships to build their real world experience and an enviable resume that rivals those of college graduates.”

McLean resident and class of 2017 graduate Emily Barre is a junior at Duke University. Her senior year internship was in the quality control department of K2M, a biomedical device company in Leesburg. “A Madeira alumna designs spinal devices and introduced these internships to the school,” she says. “This summer I returned to K2M as an intern on their engineering team through their formal college internship program and cannot imagine a better fit of a summer experience. When writing my cover letter and even during my interviews, I was able to pull very significantly from my co-curriculum experience as a whole and the weekly reports that we wrote during the placement proved to be valuable in reminding me about the specifics of what I did during my time there.”

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Great Falls resident and class of 2016 graduate Kristin Joostema always knew she wanted to be a pediatrician. During her senior year, her co-curriculum internship was working for pediatric cardiologist and Madeira alumna, Dr. Jennifer Lindsey. Joostema is a senior at the University of Richmond.

“Although hectic and crazy, my internship affirmed what I wanted to do and gave me even more motivation to succeed in college so I can reach that end goal,” she says. “Dr. Lindsey didn’t just sit me in a corner; she took the time to draw diagrams of the heart and walk me through step by step what was happening in a case. To have the opportunity to work with a fellow Madeira girl who started with my same high school experience and made it in the world is so inspiring.”

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Fairfax County has a new policy for CBD oil in schools

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On Friday, Oct. 11, Fairfax County Public Schools announced a new policy in accordance with Virginia law, that allows the county’s schools to store, dispense and administer cannabidiol (CBD) oil and tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THC-A) oil to registered students.

Students whose parents or guardians have submitted the proper paperwork, including a Medication Authorization Form signed by a licensed medical or osteopathic practitioner, can have the oil administered at school by an authorized staff member.

The paperwork must also include the reasons for the student’s use of the medication, when it should be administered to the child and the exact dosage needed.

The policy protects administers of the medication from any type of prosecution in the policy as well. They cannot be charged for storing, dispensing or administering CBD oil or THC-A oil.

As always, parents or guardians must transport the medication to and from the school with the proper paperwork in order for the prescription to be registered and administered to the student on school grounds.

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These are best colleges and universities in Virginia, according to WalletHub

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University of Virginia (Photo by Melinda Fawver/stock.adobe.com)

It’s that time of year where excitement, and maybe a little stress, starts to creep in for high school juniors and seniors. College applications are being filled out, campus tours are scheduled and the first early decision college application deadline is coming up quick (Friday, Nov. 1). It goes without saying: college is on a lot of students’ brains right now.

And it’s on their parents’ brains too, especially the cost of tuition. In light of that, WalletHub, a personal finance website known for releasing annual lists and rankings on a variety of topics, recently released its 2020 Best College & University Rankings across the country.

Who did the best in Virginia? University of Virginia ranked in at No. 1, with College of William & Mary and the University of Richmond trailing right behind at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

WalletHub compared over 1,000 higher-education institutions in the U.S. based on 33 key measurements grouped into seven categories, like student selectivity, cost and financing, career outcome, student-faculty ratio, graduation rate and median salary upon graduation.

Find the top 10 list for Virginia colleges and universities, below.

  1. University of Virginia
  2. College of William & Mary
  3. University of Richmond
  4. Washington and Lee University
  5. Virginia Military Institute
  6. Virginia Tech
  7. James Madison University
  8. University of Mary Washington
  9. George Mason University
  10. Bridgewater College

To see the full list of the top colleges and universities in the nation, and to read more on how the key measurements were selected, click here.

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New Jersey city handles unpaid school lunch bill issue differently than California

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Two blue states are dealing with the same challenge in very different ways. Yesterday we looked at the new “lunch shaming” bill signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Students will no longer be given a basic lunch if they fail to pay for their meals and run up a large bill. This will supposedly prevent anyone from feeling singled out, while likely dumping additional costs on taxpayers.

At nearly the same time this was taking place, a different story was unfolding in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The school district has been wrestling with a problem similar to the one being faced in California. They have thousands of dollars in unpaid lunch fees on the books and have been experimenting with ways to address that. For a time, they were giving students with more than ten dollars of lunch debt a tuna sandwich lunch. People complained about that, so they’ve approved a new policy. The students will get a hot lunch, but none of the extra frills. And there are additional restrictions as well. (CBS Philadelphia)

The Cherry Hill Board of Education approved changes to the district’s school lunch policy Tuesday. Students who fail to pay for lunch will now be allowed a hot lunch from the meal of the day menu, but no a la carte items…

The new policy would also keep students who don’t pay after repeated requests from extracurricular events.

The reaction from those at the meeting was largely negative.

The reactions from parents may have been negative, but the reality is the same as it is in California. New Jersey also has a program in place to provide free lunches to students from economically disadvantaged families. Families with slightly higher incomes can also qualify for significantly lower price lunches. And the cost for this program is covered by a grant from the Department of Agriculture so it’s not dumped on the local taxpayers.

If your income is high enough that you’re nowhere near the poverty line, you’re supposed to be taking care of your child’s needs and that includes making sure they can take care of lunch when at school. Those in financial distress can request special accommodations.

And the penalties aren’t particularly severe under Cherry Hill’s program. The tuna sandwich lunch, while nutritious, would definitely get stale after a while and it would be obvious that you were behind on your bills. But if the student is receiving the same hot meal as everyone else and just doing without the extra items, they’re still getting a hot, nutritious meal. Missing out on dessert might prompt a conversation at home as to why they’re not being given lunch money. Alternately, it might prompt the parents to ask where they lunch money they do give their child is actually going.

All of this strikes me as a challenge with obvious solutions available without just declaring that the school has to suck up the loss and figure out how to pay for endless free lunches. If your district wants lunch to be free, bring that up for a vote and build the money into the school budget. If not, take advantage of available programs to help pay for lunches for low-income families and communicate with the rest of the parents about why the bills aren’t getting paid.

The post New Jersey city handles unpaid school lunch bill issue differently than California appeared first on Hot Air.

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James Frayne: Voters would welcome a Brexit deal. But it might harm and not help the Conservatives with working class voters.

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

You can’t credibly poll how people might think or feel in the future. We can’t therefore know what the public will think if Boris Johnson secures a deal that looks vaguely similar to Theresa May’s.

But there’s been enough polling to guess. It’s reasonable to assume – hardcore Remainers aside – most voters will be so relieved it’s nearly over they’ll back a deal regardless of any friendly fire from Eurosceptics or Unionists. The Conservatives’ conference slogan – ‘Get Brexit Done’ – perfectly summed up what most people think about the whole thing. It also seems reasonable to assume most people would be exasperated and angry with those standing in the way of a deal – and there’ll likely be little interest in a betrayal narrative from eurosceptic purists.

The next stage in the electoral cycle writes itself: Boris Johnson’s ratings rise as a Prime Minister that delivers on his word, and the Conservative Party’s ratings rise too; Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage look irrelevant; and the Liberal Democrats’ position as a vehicle for disaffected middle-class Remainers is threatened as the world moves on. What do the Lib Dems stand for at that point? Amid the wreckage, Johnson at some point runs a short campaign securing a workable majority, and the Party goes back to the happy days of 2015 when it looked briefly truly ascendant.

While there’s a clear political logic to all this, delivery of a deal at least raises the prospect that the Conservative Party could become a victim of its own success on Brexit with a big chunk of its coalition. What if delivering Brexit ended up costing it working class votes?

As I’ve been arguing for the last few months here, the Conservatives’ hold on working class voters is extremely precarious. Depending on which polls you look at, the Conservatives are currently on course to secure between a third and a half of the working class vote. And working class voters have been coming over to the Party slowly for the last decade.

But they have come over overwhelmingly because of Brexit and immigration – and the Conservatives’ relative position on these issues compared to Labour. Amongst working class voters, there’s no love for the Party and there’s precious little for Boris Johnson either. The Conservatives are seen as a useful vehicle for their views on Brexit and immigration – as well as taxation and welfare. There’s no cultural affinity to those they see as “posh Tories”.

The fact is that, over the last three years, the Conservatives have talked obsessively about working class voters without doing much for them. The Conservatives’ working class strategy has amounted to little more than people saying they have one. Until Johnson became Prime Minister, the only thing the Party really did in recent times for working class voters was pledge to increase NHS spending. He has transformed the Party’s approach – as yesterday’s Queen’s Speech showed. Under him, it has pledged further funds to the NHS, schools and the police, and promised to end automatic early release of prisoners and paved the way for a points-based immigration system. It has also promised new funds for towns.

This is all progress and should not be under-estimated. But imagine that Brexit was “done”, would these things be enough to keep working class voters onside? Would they actually think that, now Brexit’s done and immigration back under control, that they can return to their natural home in the Labour Party? After all, Labour will be chucking a lot more cash about even than the Conservatives.

We don’t know the answer to this, and we won’t until Brexit is resolved. My sense is that, as long as Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party, even a halfway decent campaign on working class priorities will carry a big proportion of the working class vote.

However, my sense is also that the Party has done so little of recent practical benefit to working class voters, that Brexit and immigration done, a change anytime soon in the Labour leader to someone even vaguely moderate and competent would be a disaster for the Conservatives. The announcements that Johnson has made recently have been spot on, but they’ve come so late in the day there’s a chance they won’t filter through in time, and certainly a big chance that nothing will be felt on the ground in working class communities.

There are two implications from all this. The first is that the Party needs to view the Queen’s Speech as being the beginning of a major campaign to create a working class base that currently doesn’t exist. Similar sorts of policy announcements must follow in coming months, and obviously above all during the election campaign.

Just as the saner parts of the Labour Party are obsessing over provincial English towns (although bizarrely they’re still threatening to raise their taxes), so the Conservatives must develop the same obsession. Amongst other things, to do this they must re-form old alliances with the business community in provincial England to help them create a credible supporter base (admittedly a longer-term goal). This will likely be their starting point for the growth of a working class activist base.

The second implication is that the Party needs to look to build bridges with the middle class Remainers that have recently left the Party (or been removed from it). With the working class vote far from assured, the Party needs all the support it can get. The Party should be thinking of policies that appeal directly to middle class professionals – childcare, workplace, personal finance – that don’t risk any interference with their messages to the working class. And there should be a pathway back for MPs like David Gauke.

Time will tell, but it could be that the high watermark of the Conservatives’ attractiveness to working class voters was the autumn of 2019 – when the Party was led by a PM that would apparently do anything to deliver Brexit, amid hostile opposition from all sides. What better rallying call to the working class than to say “vote Conservative and get Brexit done”? The Party needs to do a lot more for working class voters – and very fast – so it can say “vote Conservative because we got Brexit done”.

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