As Parliament gets back to business, Brexit is still top of the agenda. But over the summer we heard the disappointing news that the Ministry of Defence intends to close RAF Scampton.
I have often written about how proud we are in Lincolnshire to be home to so much of this country’s flying and fighting heritage. It has been centuries since battles were fought in our fields – there was even a Battle of Gainsborough during the Civil War, which I’m ashamed to say the Cromwellians won. But during the Second World War our lands were home to numerous squadrons of the Royal Air Force, of which the Dambusters were only the most famous.
They were based at RAF Scampton, where Commander Guy Gibson’s dog is still buried, and the historical legacy of this important military installation must be protected as its future is debated.
In fact, Scampton pre-dates the Second World War as it was founded far back as 1916 with the name Air Station Brattleby Cliff and renamed two years later. Many constituents remember when the runway was extended in the 1950s to allow the Vulcan bombers to use it, forcing the old Roman road that now goes by the romantic name of the A15 to be redirected around it.
Proud though we are of our history of military aviation, we in this county have also witnessed less inspiring aspects of the Ministry of Defence, namely their way of disposing of land that has been designated as surplus to requirements. The poor examples that are too many in previous decades mean we must be vigilant in ensuring that if RAF Scampton is indeed to close its future use must be well thought-out and suitable to the needs of our communities.
Disappointed though I was to see that the counterproductive and discriminatory rules against new Catholic free schools have not yet been rescinded, I am heartily encouraged that the creation of other new free schools is proceeding apace. Fifty-three new free schools will soon be opening across the country, which should create up to 40,000 new school places. These schools have been founded by community groups, charities, and multi-academy trusts, and many of them will provide specialist education for pupils.
Parents are the primary educators of their children and it is for that reason that they should have a range of options when it comes to choosing a school where their offspring can experience their formal education. Allowing groups of parents, charities, and others to found new schools has improved the quality of education provision in England, and more pupils are now studying in schools that are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
The government also recently announced a very welcome pay rise for classroom teachers and there is a coordinated effort to work with school leaders and trade unions to boost recruitment and retention while getting rid of unnecessary workload. There are now over 450,000 teachers in our classrooms, and the number of former teachers returning the profession is increasing too.
Sir Edward Leigh