Training Women Candidates

IMG_4197

I went to Bosnia Herzegovina representing the Conservative Party to train potential female candidates for their General Election in 2018. I am interested in the political system in Bosnia Herzegovina as it is very different to the British electoral system. Theirs is a system of proportions with the candidates coming from a single list that is closed three months before the election. The rules surrounding the list means that 40% of the listed candidates will be women and a percentage will be youth. There are different challenges around women’s selection given that there are guarantees of a number getting on the list.

The candidates that I met on the workshop are highly educated women with very few being from a business background and some still students. The history of Bosnia Herzegovina impacts on the economy and industry of the country. One of the problems highlighted during my three day stay was that Bosnia is becoming a country of old people. One of the young candidates impressed me with her passion for the country and desire to be a candidate so that she could do something about the exodus of young people from her country.

Gio, David and I were very impressed by the female candidates when they pitched to us at the mock selection panel. Some things are the same in Bosnia as the UK, how can a woman stand out against fierce competition?

The workshop or training only worked because we had a fantastic translator Dragan. I was happy to give him a new word which he hadn’t heard before, hustings.

The session concluded with a visit from Senad Šepić MP who had flown in from London that morning. I hope to visit Bosnia Herzegovina again and see how the country develops and progresses.


IT Board

Techies & Women on Boards

I started writing this post before the cyber-attack on the BBC which took down BBC web services.

The biggest risk for Chief Executives, in arguably any business, is a cyber-attack and yet senior technical advice is not deemed a requirement at board level and in high level decision making.

I have just been appointed to a Trust Board and on that board I am the only woman and I am the only person with an engineering background.

Technology should be recognised as one of society’s much needed skills and those who are high ranking experts in that profession should be regarded in a similar way to other senior professionals in the field of law, medicine or finance, for example. Governance and Business Boards need to have board members with 21st century skills but until local and national governance acknowledge that technical skills are important to high level decision making then boards will not be representative of knowledge that is used at decision making in daily business life. My perception of board appointments is that a culture exists of sticking to the same type of person for board membership and by doing that women are excluded, ethnic minorities are excluded and those from engineering, and most of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers are also excluded.

Skills that are deemed a requirement at board level such as lawyers, doctors and accountants hold qualifications earned at university, technical engineering qualifications may or may not be earned at university but are not considered important on most boards. Deliverables from finance or medicine, for example, will use information technology for compliance, so why not on a board? Just as you would not want a newly qualified doctor with no experience on a managing board the same applies for an engineer with technical skills. However there needs to be academic labelling for technical skills that is recognisable for the level of skill that an IT professional can bring to a board.

Information Technology is a relatively new industry and so change can be difficult because of a lack of understanding of the skills however all services now heavily rely on technology. Unfortunately because everyone uses technology they think that they are an IT expert however that diminishes the responsibility that IT professionals have to deliver services that are secure and meet business needs.

A technology architect who designs a system that provides services that effect whole communities should have equal weight to that of a lawyer or doctor. A doctor may affect outcomes for a single person where as a Senior Engineer or an IT Architect can affect the outcomes for whole businesses. It has been reported in the media that Chief Executives biggest risk to their business is a cyber-attack. Given that the biggest risk is a security threat that only IT professionals can address it is surprising that their opinions are not being valued at board level.

In my experience a trust board making appointments today would appoint a lawyer easily with only a few years’ experience in planning law where as an IT engineer with many years of experience in engineering IT solutions that provides critical business services would have difficulty in being appointed.

The level of experience and knowledge that a board member brings is crucial to board appointments. For example it is unlikely that you would appoint a Help Desk Assistant to a board and similarly it would be unlikely that you would appoint a Ward Nurse. Just as a board would appoint a doctor, so at a similar level you should appoint Senior IT professionals such as an IT Architect or Senior Systems Engineer.

There aren’t many women in engineering roles and there are few women on boards and it has not been an easy journey for me personally to get onto either which is why I think there needs to be a change in perception of IT professionals and their skills, the simplest solution is to use a naming standard to label IT skill levels so that those outside of IT can agree that an IT Architect or a Senior Systems Engineer is a skill sought after on boards.


boris1-web-715x476

Turkish Exams

As promised by Nicky Morgan MP, the Secretary of State for Education in the lead up to the general election and after, the government have announced that they have secured community language exams. The exams which include Turkish were threatened to be discontinued by examination boards. Conservative colleagues and I supported Londra Gazete in their campaign to reverse the unpopular decision and Nick de Bois met with OCR to ask them to reconsider. A good result for the community and a clear message that Conservatives deliver on their promises.boris1-web-715x476


16240030298_15250868dc_o

Conservative Government and Education

I joined a webinar “What does a Conservative government mean for education? Sponsored by OCR” with the Secretary of State for Education – Nicky Morgan, Jonathan Simons – Head of Education at Policy Exchange, Paul Steer – Head of Policy at OCR and Schools Week editor – Laura McInerney.

Well done schools week for the first of its kind webinar which provided me and many others with an education forum that was easy to access.

Jonathan Simons explained the Government’s big push on Education in the first days of Government and how they could build on their first term in office. He talked about how schools would not be able to “coast” and that schools would have to achieve and make progress in the future. The Queen’s speech would set out bills for childcare and coasting schools.

Paul Steer from OCR spoke about the decoupling of AS and A level exams, about the new GCSE’s, their grading and progress from KS2 rather than absolute outcomes.

I had submitted a question to the webinar asking about children using laptops in exams. In the Times newspaper there was an article where a loophole had been exploited and that children had been permitted to use laptops in exams. Paul Steer had mentioned this topic and was about to answer my question whether the loophole would be closed or whether this was the start of new policy when Nicky Morgan arrived and unfortunately there wasn’t time for an answer.

The Secretary of State made it clear that Education is a priority of the Government and that every child should have the best start in life. Schools that are failing or coasting will get the help they need for improvement. The schools that don’t improve will become academies and the bureaucracy will be cleared to ease that outcome.

Nicky Morgan made it clear that OFSTED will be coming back in house and that judgements of a school would not only be based on an OFSTED inspection. There would be a consistent basis for judgements with accountability.

I had submitted another question to the webinar asking about minority language exams which OCR had threatened to drop due to a lack of demand. The Secretary of State said that she supported maintaining the exams for minority languages. Good news for all of us supporting this campaign and particularly Londra Gazete who launched the campaign and T-Vine who supported.

Well done Schools Week and I hope to get my question about laptops in exams answered at a later date or the next webinar.


boris1-web-715x476

Save our Language Exams

I learnt about the proposed abolition of the Modern Languages exam in an interview with Londra Gazete. They asked for my opinion and I confirmed that it would be something I would campaign to stop.

If you want to save the exams please sign the petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/department-for-education-save-our-turkish-exams

As someone with a passion for education I want to encourage foreign languages to be learnt and taking away examinations for languages is sending out the wrong message.

There are so many reasons why the examinations should remain, such as:

  • So that future traders and businesses trade and converse in the language of the country
  • To recognise achievement in learning the language
  • To formalise a language that may be spoken at home
  • To learn different cultures
  • To provide UCAS points for students going onto university education

Boris Johnson joined the campaign to support saving the exams and said:

“My great grandfather Ali Kemal, when he was a minister in İstanbul, he actually reinstituted the study of Latin and Greek which was amazingly beneficial.”


DavidandGonul

The Best Start in Life

I was invited to attend a speech given by the Prime Minister outlining the Conservative Education policy for the next government.

I am passionate about a good education for all no matter what your background and I am convinced that the Conservative commitment to education will give every child the best start in life.

My twins, Harry and Poppy, will start primary school this September and I know that the policies proposed under a Conservative Government will give my young children the best education possible. I agree with David Cameron when he said “like every other parent in the land I don’t want to settle for second best”.

I have been a governor at a state secondary school for the last ten years because I care about our children’s education. I am now Chair of Governors and my role is to challenge the school. It is a role that I take seriously as no child should be left behind. All Head teachers, teachers, staff, governors, students and parents want the same thing, a good education for the children.

I believe a Conservative Government can provide the best start for every child regardless of where they are from.

 


IMG_8463.jpg

Achievement and disappointment!

I ran the Hackney 1/2 marathon yesterday, the first ever in Hackney. This was a first for me too, I have never run a 1/2 marathon before and in the build up to the day I realised that perhaps I should have started small and built up to the event. I should have run in an organised 5k or 10k run before going for a 1/2 marathon. Fools rush in as they say.

IMG_8014The day dawned with the promise of a lovely summers day. I worried that it might be too hot and I wouldn’t manage the whole course, but if it had been cold I would have worried that the cold would hinder me. I was nervous that I would let myself down.

I decided to run for the British Heart Foundation because it is a cause close to my heart. My lovely brother Mem died in 2008 after a lifetime of heart problems and my lovely husband Jon has had a quadruple heart bypass. I hope that any money I raise will go towards helping those with the sort of problems that my brother and husband had.

I thoroughly enjoyed the run , the before and the after. The hardest part was the walk to the car park after running 21k. At the time it felt harder than the run itself. The very good thing about the Hackney 1/2 marathon is it is in London, it is spectator friendly and most importantly for the runner it is flat, no hills! Would I do it again? Maybe? Probably!

IMG_8328

So this weekend I had a fantastic personal achievement that was inter-mingled with grief and remembering my much missed brother. I also had bad news, 2 days before the run I learnt that the free school bid that I have been involved in at Ashmole School had been unsuccessful.Locally we parents of young children were optimistic that there may be two new schools in the Southgate area and this now seems to have been taken away from us. SWEAT campaigners (a group that I chair) have been striving for increased primary school provision  for over a year and we are bitterly disappointed that despite our efforts there is no progress.

IMG_8463We will not be beaten!


More Primary School Places

I was interviewed by Ruth McKee of the Enfield Advertiser about the new primary school that is to be opened in Southgate for September 2014.

Many parents of children starting school this year will not be aware of this development unless they have been following the We Want Local Schools campaign that I set up with a group of concerned parents; also known as SWEAT (South West Enfield Action Team). Here is part of the article and the full article can be read here.

 


Pay for state education?

We do pay for state education through our taxes! There is a suggestion in the papers today that wealthy parents should pay for their children to go to the most popular state schools.

There is a problem in my area where parents will cheat and play the school admission system to get their children into the best state run schools. Parents will rent a property for 6 months to a year on the doorstep of a school with an outstanding Ofsted report and good reputation and once their children have gained admission they move away. Instead of paying for 7 years of private education for all of their children they pay 6 months rent and save thousands and thousands of pounds.These parents are cheating local residents’ children of school places and worse still the admission cheat parents do not think they are doing anything wrong and go on to brag about how clever they have been to other parents.

Something needs to be done to stop parents cheating the system and depriving local children of their school place. By encouraging strong local community links we may make parents think twice about stealing other children’s school places if they know that they are acting against the local community. Unfortunately we can’t rely on that and new policies are needed to stop the cheats and I don’t think that paying for state education is the answer. I pay for state education through my taxes!

What is the alternative? I have been campaigning for increased primary school provision in my area and one of the things we have been asking of the local authority is to make the admissions criteria tighter to deter admission cheats. The parents who rent accommodation to buy a good education for their child should be paying for independent schooling. If parents have to pay for state education then a good education will not be available to all and non fee paying schools will become the schools that nobody wants to send their children to.

The school argument proves that parents recognise that education is the key to a good life and a good society. We should be improving state schools to a higher standard so that parents aren’t chasing places at a few good schools but that more good schools are available. For example we all know that smaller class sizes make for a better education and employing the best teachers will get the best results.


Happy New Year

I had a marvellous 2013! The year really finished on a high for my SWEAT (South West Enfield Action Team) primary school campaign and for me personally. There were many ups and downs along the way, but I am a cup 1/2 full type of girl so I enjoy the roller coaster ride of life.

The SWEAT success came after just 9 months of campaigning for increased primary school places in the form of a proposal by Ashmole Academy for a primary school which is scheduled for September 2015. The proposed school is some way off, however the parent support that is needed for it to go ahead has been given by the local community. Members of the SWEAT group and I were busy distributing the Ashmole proposal to toddler groups, nurseries and libraries in December and our efforts have produced the desired result.

The campaign for primary school provision is not over and the 60 school places that Ashmole will provide yearly from 2015 will go someway to ease an increasing problem. Well done Ashmole. The school place requirement will not be satisfied by this proposal and SWEAT will continue to raise awareness in our aim to achieve more school places in the area.

On a personal note I am delighted to have passed Parliamentary Assessment Board and have been added onto the Conservative Party’s list of Approved Candidates. I am looking forward to a busy 2014 in politics.