Lots of people tell me there's not much difference between Labour and the Conservatives these days.
There certainly isn't as big a difference as there was when I was growing up, though that's not necessarily a bad thing - unless you're an old-fashioned socialist, you should be relieved that Labour no longer believes in wholesale nationalisation and the closed shop.
But there are still important differences and one of the things I want to use this blog to do is to highlight the differences between me and my Labour opponent, Gerry Ryan.
This post is about the difference between us when it comes to standards in schools.
You can read what Gerry thinks here. Leaving aside the fact that Haling Manor is not in Croydon Central (it's in Croydon South Gerry - you should know given that you were the Labour candidate there at the last General Election), I want to focus on his contention in his second to last paragraph that "Ashburton is a good community school".
I have a lot of respect for the staff at Ashburton, who I know work hard to teach children from a wide range of backgrounds. But let's look at the facts.
A good community school ought to draw its pupils from the surrounding area. Ashburton fills just 39 per cent of its places with first choice applicants. Many of its pupils come from some distance away. If Gerry had spoken to parents in the local area, he would know that most of them do not share his assessment.
Want to know why? Last year, just 21 per cent of Ashburton pupils achieved 5A* to C passes at GCSE including Maths and English. For some reason that I can't understand, Gerry and other Croydon Labour councillors seem to think that this is ok.
I'm reminded of a speech by a former Leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, when he asked:
"Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent?"
Does Gerry really believe that four in five of the children at Ashburton don't have the ability to get a C grade at GCSE in Maths and English? Most jobs in today's economy require strong numeracy and literacy skills. What future are we providing for children who leave school without these skills?
So there is a clear difference between us on this issue. Gerry thinks a school at which just one in five children get 5A* to C passes at GCSE including Maths and English, a school which doesn't come close to filling its places with first preference applicants, is a good community school. I don't.