Passionate response at Hustings event

Hustings event in the St Paul's Arts Centre last night
Hustings event in the St Paul's Arts Centre last night

A FIERY hustings threatened to boil over at times as Worthing West residents gathered to listen to their constituency’s prospective parliamentary candidates on Monday night.

The second part of the event, chaired by John Richards from Skeptics in the Pub Worthing, saw the candidates answer questions submitted by audience members.

Questions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the economy, foreign aid, the NHS, education and Trident were all raised.

On occasion the audience heckled candidates and bickered among themselves as the candidates’ answers divided opinion.

Education proved to be one of the most heated parts of the evening, with candidates expressing strong opposing views on the topic.

Relaying questions from the floor, Mr Richards asked: “What do the panel think of colleagues who say they support state education and then send their own children to private schools? What’s your stance to education and tuition fees? What would you do to value teachers in the Worthing area and beyond and should free schools be allowed to recruit unqualified teachers?”

Mr Aherne stated his desire to abolish faith schools and academies. He claimed that all state schools should be clear of faith because it indoctrinated children.

He said: “They spread disharmony as we’ve seen in Northern Ireland and around the world. It’s totally wrong. School should be preparing people to live in a multi-cultural society not in a monocultural society.”

Mrs Thorpe chose to address what she called ‘the elephant in the room’ – tuition fees.

Despite the Liberal Democrats’ inability to prevent an increase in tuition fees to £9,000 a year, Mrs Thorpe said that the scheme currently in place was ‘actually better than the previous one’.

She added that parents should have the choice to send their children to whatever school they liked, but she would personally favour a state school.

Mr Deen expressed dislike for private education.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned, anyone in the Labour party who sends their child to a private school is wrong. I don’t want to know them. We should be sending them to state schools that we created.”

If Labour returns to power Mr Deen said the party would stop free schools and bring existing free schools under the control of the local authority.

In contrast, Mr Cross said he went to private school, as had his children.

He stated UKIP’s desire to reintroduce grammar schools as a way of lowering class sizes as well as the party’s aim to abolish tuition fees for maths, science, teaching, engineering, technology subjects.

He added: “It’s abhorrent that my son who’s studying to be a doctor at Imperial College London will end up with a debt of more than £60,000 which will impinge on his life.”

Following a sustained period of interruption from an audience member during Mr Cross’s answer, Mr Bottomley said: “I think most people can make their own minds up on what the speakers are saying and they don’t really need someone who listens with their mouth rather than their ears.”

He then shared a story about one of his friends to highlight how unqualified teachers could be beneficial in the classroom.

Sir Peter said: “One of my friends at school became a maths teacher. He ended up as a headmaster at a school which got more A grade A-levels in maths than the whole of the rest of London, Birmingham and Manchester.

“When he retired and said he wanted to give the rest of his life to teaching at a comprehensive school he was told he couldn’t until he had a year’s supervised teaching because he hadn’t got a teacher’s qualification.

“There are many subjects where people can come into teaching because they love the subject. If they’ve got the gift of getting on with children in a school environment then they should be allowed to teach. I don’t think we should be dogmatic about these type of things. We should be practical.”

At the end of the meeting a disgruntled audience member thanked the panel for helping him decide that he would not vote for anyone.