Free School Meal Voucher Scheme
Disappointed to hear reports that the Government won’t be extending the free school meal voucher scheme over the summer holidays and I’ve written to the Minister for Children to raise my concerns.
These vouchers have been a real lifeline for families facing great hardship as schools have been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. A decision to end this scheme too soon will hit Ipswich’s most vulnerable children the hardest and no child must go hungry because of Covid-19.
Hopefully the Government will reconsider this decision over the coming days and of course I’ll be raising this issue on the Education Committee and elsewhere to try to persuade the Government to change course.
Our children’s education must not be held hostage by unions waging political warfare
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.
Supporting those with special educational needs
My view is that no school should be awarded a Good our Oustanding rating unless they provide adequate support for those with Special Educational Needs. Today as part of the Education Select Committee I quizzed the Chief Inspector of Ofsted (the body that scrutinise and assess our schools). I asked a number of questions but perhaps the most important was the one I asked about the extent that they place importance on SEND provision in schools. I have to say I was slightly concerned to find out that under the new Ofsted framework a school can still be awarded a Good or Outstanding classification whilst also having significant deficiencies regarding SEND provision.
Personally I think unless a school can at least meet expectations when it comes to supporting those with special educational needs then they shouldn’t be getting a Good or Outstanding rating. There is much that is good about the new Ofsted framework but its very important that all schools are strongly incentivised to provide first class SEND provision and are properly held to account if they don’t. A number of teachers in Ipswich and parents have raised concerns with me about the way the previous Ofsted framework worked in this respect and the current one needs to be more than just a slight improvement. I will be writing a follow up letter to the Chief Inspector seeking a range of assurances.
My selection to the House of Commons Education Select Committee
Very pleased to announce that yesterday it was confirmed that I’ve secured a place on the House of Commons Education Select Committee. The Committee is composed of 11 MPs from a number of different parties and is responsible for holding to account the Department for Education and other associated organisations such as Ofsted. It was a great honour to have been elected to serve on the committee.
As many of you know, I’m very passionate about working to ensure that all children regardless of special educational needs they may have is given every opportunity to achieve their full potential. I also feel that my responsibilities on this committee sit comfortably with my primary responsibility which is serving my constituents. I know how important education is an issue for thousands of my constituents and hopefully this gives me a platform to promote positive change.