Election 2015 England

Election 2015: Isle of Wight education highlighted in candidates' debate

Isle of Wight election candidates
Image caption The six candidates were taking part in a BBC Radio Solent election debate

The candidates for the Isle of Wight in the general election have clashed over the future of education on the island.

Education has been run by Hampshire County Council since 2013 following concerns over standards on the island.

Speaking on a BBC Radio Solent election debate, Conservative candidate Andrew Turner insisted secondary schools were "getting better".

Other candidates criticised the government policy of free schools set up by parents and independent groups.

In 2008, Isle of Wight Council scrapped the island's three-tier education system for two tiers, which led to the closure of some schools.

Four of the island's six secondary schools were rated "inadequate" in their Ofsted reports from 2012 - the lowest grade.

The government subsequently directed the council to form a strategic partnership with Hampshire County Council to run its education and children's services.

Isle of Wight Council is once again consulting on secondary school provision on the island as it seeks to tackle issues related to over-capacity.

Free schools created

One option put forward is to merge two Newport schools; Medina College and Carisbrooke College.

Meanwhile two new schools, the Island Free School and Isle of Wight Studio School, have opened their doors.

Mr Turner said the government's policy of supporting free schools had benefited the island.

"We made a difference by introducing two new secondary schools.

"The others are getting better now, but it took two or three years to move in that direction."

Labour hopeful Stewart Blackmore said the island did not need another "disastrous" reorganisation of schooling.

"We need a local director of education who has the power to do something about falling standards locally," he said.

Call for consolidation

Liberal Democrat David Goodall criticised the creation of free schools.

"As a party we wouldn't allow any new schools to be set up in an area unless there is actually a need for new school places."

Vix Lowthion, of the Greens, who is a teacher, said: "We need consolidation and no more reorganisation - the free schools created a bit of a mess.

"The council are right to look at it, but in the meantime our children are suffering."

UKIP's Iain McKie said education was a "national disgrace" and pledged to set up a grammar school in the island by 2020 - an idea rejected by other candidates.

Independent Ian Stephens, the former leader of Isle of Wight Council, said the authority had "tackled the job" of education and said the partnership with Hampshire County Council had "given us a breadth of talent and expertise we wouldn't have had otherwise."

The candidates for the constituency are:

Stewart Blackmore (Labour)

David Goodall (Liberal Democrats)

Vix Lowthion (Green)

Iain McKie (UKIP)

Ian Stephens (Independent)

Andrew Turner (Conservative)

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