It is tragic to read recent reports highlighting educational failures in Liverpool and Knowsley. Both councils supported the “Better Schools for the Future” programme, and both are now paying the cost. In Liverpool, the newly-built Parklands school now lies empty and forlorn, whilst Knowsley, having a similarly deserted newly built school, is now closing down its last sixth-form.
It is not just wasted money, but wasted opportunities in education and elsewhere. The massive debts for these white elephants will be with us for years because of political weakness and ignorance of what is really needed. Quality buildings are desirable but do not of themselves give quality education. Throwing blame around will do nothing to improve matters. One cannot take credit when things appear to be successful, only to disown responsibility when things go wrong.
Knowsley has a particular problem. It gives very good primary education, only for parents to vote with their feet and send their children to surrounding boroughs for their secondary education. Liverpool, meanwhile, is bedevilled with a system of governance within which no-one appears to question the decisions made by the mayor. It is little wonder that there are foul-ups.
Perhaps the two boroughs should combine their education departments in the hope that between them, they might come up with solutions to their problems. This year, Knowsley (quite rightly) is slashing its number of councillors. Liverpool should do the same, and spend the savings on education. In fact, with the advent of a city-region mayor in 2017, we might as well merge both councils with even bigger savings, and, hopefully, educational improvements.