By Erdington Local election news team
During a visit to Erdington on Friday, 11 February, the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP, told Erdington Local:
“What I’m trying to do is make sure that where we need additional teachers, like Erdington, in subjects like STEM, we actually say: ‘Look, in your first five years as a new teacher, we will give you an additional £3000 tax free, if you move to Erdington, to help us on this endeavour.”
He added: “To deliver a great education you need great teachers, so another thing I’m doing is half a million teacher training opportunities, so anyone reading this who wants to become a teacher come forward. We have the best teacher training opportunities in the world, in my view.”
On the campaign trail with Conservative MP hopeful Robert Alden, the Tory frontbencher was speaking about his strategy to support education after the Coronavirus crisis – during a visit to the colloquially known Ghousia Mosque on Slade Road, Stockland Green.
Keen to see Robert Alden “join him on the green benches,” Mr Zahawi urged local voters to support the Erdington Ward councillor as he makes his bid for Erdington MP on Thursday 3, March.
The Education Secretary went on to promise that every child will have access to a tutor via The National Tutoring Program.
He told: “We’ve listened to schools, and we’ve put in almost £600 million allowing schools to access their own tutors and I want every parent to ask their schools – are you getting that tutoring for my child when they need it?”
Cllr Robert Alden, who also the leader of the Birmingham Conservative Party, wanted the once Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment to see first-hand the impact of the mosque’s outreach work and local support programmes.
Alden explained: “I want to thank the mosque for all they’ve done during the Covid pandemic, supporting the local community.
“They’ve done a brilliant role here, making sure the community was looked after during one of the worst events in our lifetime.”
Nadhim Zahawi MP added: “I know from what I’ve been hearing today that it was this congregation here, this leadership who made a real difference to people’s lives and the wider community.”
But education was a clear conversation point throughout the visit, a subject “close to my heart” for Mr Zahawi, with Cllr Alden emphasising the importance “everyone gets that chance to get on in life.”
Robert Alden added: “That’s what we’ve seen from the government, they’ve invested over 8 million, just in the last year, in pupil premium funding locally. We need to make sure that no one is left behind as we recover (from the pandemic).
“That’s what we very much do where I’m a governor, and that’s how I’d almost want to be as a Member of Parliament – making sure that we as a community take all the children with us, to give them the best education possible.”
While praising the British education that he had received as an 11 year old immigrant “who couldn’t speak a word of English”, the Education Secretary warned: “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be complacent, we should improve.
“That’s what Bobby (Robert Alden) is going to do, to help deliver that, if people elect him as their Member of Parliament.”
Erdington has a diverse community, and its new Member of Parliament will need to be a strong voice in Westminster for people from a range of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
When asked about issues of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, specifically Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani’s recent resignation, the Education Secretary said:
“There is no room for islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
“There are, sadly, in society, incidents of racism and Islamophobia. I suffered from it when I was a kid at school. But we’ve got to make sure that wherever it is, we stamp it out.”
Cllr Robert Alden echoed his message: “There is no place whatsoever, for Islamophobia, both in the Conservative Party and wider society as a whole.
“What I’ve tried to do as a local councillor for the past 16 years is really reach out to all communities, to be able to support them, to make sure they have a voice and to get them the help that they need.”
Addressing both the issues of education and community cohesion, Imam Ghulam Rasool added: “I think if you look at the moment faith is very vibrant, so I think an agreed syllabus for young people should be in place, plus in those places where they aren’t providing GCSE RE, they should be inviting faith leaders.
“We need to build a sense of cohesion and get the community understanding to build tolerance and to break down any kind of intolerance.”
Erdington will elect its next Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.
The 12 candidates contesting the Birmingham Erdington seat are: Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Lee Dargue (Liberal Democrats), Michael Lutwyche (Independent), Jack Brookes (Reform UK), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green), Thomas O’Rouke (Independent), Mel Mbondiah (Christian People’s Alliance), Clifton Holmes (Independent), David Laurence Bishop (Militant Bus-Pass Elvis Party), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party).
For more on Cllr Robert Alden and the Erdington Conservatives visit www.erdingtonconservatives.org.uk