Was really pleased to have the Children’s Minister Claire Coutinho at the Sir Bobby Robson school this afternoon. She covers special educational needs as part of her role.
I’ve taken a keen interest in the school since it first opened only a few years so. Adam the head teacher and his team are doing a terrific job. Both myself and the Minister really enjoyed meeting so many of the pupils at the school and understanding more about their experiences.
In total there are now 66 at Sir Bobby. Many previous to being at Sir Bobby didn’t get the support they needed. Now they’re getting it and the progress many of them are making is uplifting.
Over the past few years the Government have increased the money put into special educational needs but the way Suffolk SEND is funded isn’t right. The amount of funding per pupil is lower than many comparable counties and this needs to change. I made this point to the Minister today and will be bringing it up in Parliament again next week.
We have another special school on the way on Woodbridge Road but even with that there is still not enough places at schools such as Sir Bobby. For every place at the school there is significant interest.
The data suggests that there has been engineering disruption to rail services from Ipswich to London across 35% of weekends over the past year. All I can say is it certainly feels like more than that. At times catching a reliable train at the weekends from Ipswich has felt like a bit of a novelty.
I appreciate that engineering works do need to be carried out from time to time, but I’m not convinced that no stone is left unturned when it comes to minimising disruption for my constituents who wish to use the train service at the weekend. Recent trends seem to confirm that actually the difference between those looking to travel during the week and at weekends is narrowing. Consistently unreliable train services at weekends is not cost free!
All of this disruption linked to rail engineering works is just compounded at the moment by the effects of all the strike action. I met with representatives from Greater Anglia and Network Rail last week to discuss and raise some of my concerns.
A real issue with the rail network though is our poor rail infrastructure. Haughley junction and Ely North junction are two crucial projects that should have been delivered many years ago. It’s crucial that the Department for Transport really starts to prioritise both projects, and I will intensify my efforts to convince the Government of the merits. Delivering both projects would greatly increase the capacity of the rail network in the East and lead to a significant improvement in the reliability and speed of train services and would also mean that things like an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough could be delivered.
I have frequent contact with both Greater Anglia and Network Rail, so please let me know if ever there is a specific issue you would like me to raise with them.
As many of you know, I often raise points about how to make better use of the talents of people who have neurodiverse conditions. Due to having dyspraxia and dyslexia myself, I come under this “neurodiverse” label. Many of those who are neurodiverse see things others can’t and think outside the box. As a society it is in our interest to make use of all talents and different ways of thinking.
Recently I discussed with the senior Army leadership how the British Army could make better use of those who are neurodiverse. Due to the increasing importance of cyber, the need for individuals who can think differently has increased so it feels like the issue is coming to a head.
Some of the physical tasks and challenges associated with being in the Armed Forces often prohibit those who are neurodiverse. Perhaps there may be a limit to what can be done, but if there is a way of ensuring that the Armed Forces don’t miss out on the talents of those who are neurodiverse and want to serve, that would be brilliant.
I was remined of my dyspraxia the other week when it took my almost half an hour to put a belt on when I visited Sandhurst.
I was reassured by the response provided by the Defence Secretary. He gets it, as do the leadership team at Sandhurst when I spoke to them about recruitment.
The Suffolk Devolution deal was officially agreed with Government Minister Lee Rowley this afternoon. This involves a significant amount of new funding for Suffolk and powers. Particularly over skills and things like adult education. It will include a £480 million investment fund over 30 years.
This does represent in my view an opportunity for Suffolk and Ipswich. It must be taken.
In principle I’ve always believed in decisions being taken as closely as possible to the people affected by those decisions.
Suffolk will only ever achieve its true potential if Ipswich achieves its true potential. The new devolution settlement for Suffolk must involve a strong focus on Ipswich. I will work with whoever I need to in order to try and ensure that.
I’m hoping this new model will help us get more investment into key infrastructure projects. Whether road or rail. There is much to be done.
Part of this will involve a new democratically elected leader of Suffolk County Council.