Written a piece today for the Daily Telegraph about the concerns I have about the positions adopted by a number of teaching unions to the phased reopening of schools. I don’t deny that there are still questions to be answered and I do absolutely understand the concerns many parents have however the very antagonistic and inflexible positions adopted by a number of teaching unions do in my view risk the life chances of many vulnerable children and many from the most deprived backgrounds (understandably these unions are attracting growing cross Party criticism). Please have a read. I have outlined many of the facts that have presented to us on the Education Select Committee relating to the impact the school closures have had.
Yesterday I made a speech in the House of Commons on the Immigration Bill which will end freedom of movement and allow us to put in place a points-based immigration system instead. Needless to say the Bill has my full support. Ending uncontrolled mass immigration was one of the main reasons why so many people voted to leave the EU in 2016 and I was glad to speak up in support of this yesterday.
We know in Ipswich the immense contributions of many of the people who have come from overseas to make our town their home. And under the new points-based system we will be able to continue to welcome those who love our country and have so much to offer it. Crucially though immigration must have the public’s consent and we must be able to say no to people who may not wish to come here to integrate fully into our society.
It was disappointing to see that the Labour Party voted against the Bill last night, although this perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise given they are now led by Keir Starmer who pushed Labour into backing a second referendum last year and then set out his full support for bringing freedom of movement back after Brexit during the Labour leadership contest. Labour continues to show how out-of-touch it has become with millions of working-class people across the country who have legitimate concerns about mass immigration and voted for Brexit specifically because of them.
I also raised illegal immigration during my speech. While not part of this Bill, many constituents have written in about the unprecedented numbers of illegal migrants who have crossed the English Channel recently and this issue must also be tackled if we are to build up public confidence in our borders. More people who break our laws to come here must be deported to uphold the rule of law and deter others. And I’ve called on the Government to introduce tougher measures over the coming weeks.
This afternoon I made clear my view that it’s critical that despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 there is no extension of the EU transition period. I was reassured by the response I received from Michael Gove. “Thank you, Mr Speaker, Over the recent weeks we have seen how the European Union’s response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been fraught with internal divisions, as the German Federal Court ruled the European Central Bank overstepped their legitimate competence with its £2 trillion rescue policy. Does my Rt Hon Friend agree with me that it is now even more essential that we press ahead with negotiations and end the transition period by the end of the year, so we can regain complete control of our money, borders and laws, and therefore have the flexibility and nimbleness in this country to chart our own path to recovery from COVID-19?”
My hair has become increasingly ridiculous over the past few weeks. The situation is unsustainable. Therefore I have decided to shave it off for a good cause. The clippers have been ordered and will be with me imminently. I will be raising money for Age UK Suffolk. Never have they been more needed as an organisation. They have provided invaluable support to elderly members of our community over the past few months and they really need and deserve all the support we’re able to offer.
Please do donate what you can. Please click below to donate: –
Today (15/05/20), Tom Hunt, Member of Parliament for Ipswich met online with a number of Primary School Heads from Ipswich and Suffolk to discuss the challenges they are facing in the run up to the phased return of some pupils to school from the beginning of June. The Heads set out a number of concerns they have including around the provision of personal protective equipment, the need for clear guidance and the impact of potential new systems on children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Hunt set out his support for a phased and safe return of more children to school from June. But he acknowledged that nobody knew better than Headteachers what will work for their own school on the ground. Hunt emphasised the importance that Headteachers have flexibility when it comes to opening up classrooms to more children and warned against any attempt to impose a top-down approach. This includes Heads being able to set up rota systems where they deem it appropriate. Hunt promised to stand by local teachers and to raise the concerns they have in his ongoing work on the Education Committee. He also committed to supporting them to have a high degree of discretion and flexibility as the phased reopening takes place.
In the meeting, Hunt drew on the large amount of time he has spent on the Education Committee exploring what impact of school closures on children, particularly the most disadvantaged. This includes children who have SEND, who don’t have suitable access to online learning resources, or who may be vulnerable to abuse at home. It is becoming clearer that vulnerable children and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are most at risk of falling behind during this pandemic. Hunt is keen to see that these children return to school as soon as it is safe to do so.
Following the meeting, Tom said:
“It was important to meet today with a number of Headteachers of schools in Ipswich and Suffolk to hear their latest views on the planned phased return of some primary school pupils from the 1st of June.
“This crisis has interrupted the education of all children and particularly some of the most vulnerable and deprived children in our community who may not have access to things like online lessons or who may even be suffering abuse. There are also concerns for children in key year groups like reception and Year 1 and their readiness and well-being as they prepare to move through the school system.
“This is why the phased reopening of schools to more children from 1 June has my support but I’m also aware that each school is different and each headteacher has their own concerns. And it was good to go into the detail of this during today’s meeting. It’s clear that our local Headteachers must have a degree of autonomy in how children are brought back and there must not be a one-size-fits-all approach across the board. Nobody knows better than them what is needed in their own school and it was encouraging to see the amount of thought each Headteacher I met with has given this subject for each of their schools.
“I will do everything I can as the local MP to support Ipswich’s headteachers in using their discretion and knowledge of their own school to guide this phased return to school. And I will always be ready to make the case to the Government if they need additional support to make sure the phased return to school is as safe and as effective as possible.
“As well as headteachers, I am also listening to the concerns of teachers at all levels and parents in my constituency. I am also supportive of their discretion and I welcome the Government’s announcement that parents will not be penalised for keeping their children at home even if they’re eligible to attend. This phased return to school will work best if all involved are allowed to work together as partners.”