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Shadow Schools Minister: Government fails to deliver for Portsmouth’s children

Stephen Morgan MP has warned that the government is failing to deliver for children in Portsmouth with ‘no plan, no ambition and no vision’ for their learning or futures, as the government’s proposed Schools Bill ‘falls short’.

The government’s proposed Schools Bill, announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech did not include a plan to drive-up standards in the classroom or turn around opportunities for over 200,000 children who live in areas with no good or outstanding schools.

In his statement on the Queen’s Speech Boris Johnson failed to mention children, suggesting his government’s priorities lie elsewhere.

Following publication of their strategy for schools, the government last month admitted that most schools already hit their new target for the length of the school day, while the Prime Minister has previously admitted that the evidence for lengthening the school day was “not as good as it could have been”.

In September, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer set out Labour’s determination to drive-up standards for all schools with the most ambitious school improvement programme for a generation. Labour’s plan would include getting 6,500 new teachers into our schools, alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills in every child’s learning so young people leave education ready for work and ready for life, equipped with the skills they need for the future.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Once again we have a smoke and mirrors announcement from a Conservative government that has simply run out of ideas. 

“Their proposed Schools Bill is looking backwards showing no plan, no ambition and no vision for Portsmouth’s and the country’s children.

“Labour is focused on making a difference for children in the classroom and throughout their lives. We would be delivering the trained staff our schools need because the success of teachers enables the success of our children.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary said:

“After two years of unprecedented chaos and disruption to children’s education, the Conservatives are obsessing over structures instead of improving children’s experience in the classroom.

“Their Bill contains no plan to support children’s pandemic recovery. No plan to improve teaching and tackle the exodus of school staff from our classrooms. No plan to ensure more young people gain essential qualifications. No plan to give children the broad education that young people, parents and employers want to see. No plan, no ambition, no vision for our children.

“Labour has been listening to parents, pupils and school staff. We would be delivering our ambitious Children’s Recovery Plan and getting on with delivering plans for 6,500 new teachers filling skills gaps across the profession alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills for every child so they get a brilliant education which equips them with the skills they need for work and for life.”

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Queen’s Speech – City MP responds

Reacting to the Queen’s Speech today, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“This was a wasted opportunity. The first line of the Queen’s Speech should have included the introduction of an emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis Portsmouth and the rest of the country are facing. Instead, it was scarcely mentioned at all.

“Nothing to tackle the cost of the weekly shop, energy bills or the price at the pump. Ministers even decided it was better to chuck its Employment Bill in the bin, rather than help to secure good jobs.

“Today’s Queen’s Speech smacks of a government and Prime Minister that is out of ideas, and out of touch. Labour is ambitious for our country. After 12 years of low growth, high inflation and spiralling taxes, Labour’s plan would once again prioritise world-class public services, bring down NHS waiting times, tackle crime and ensure the best education for our children.”

Commenting on schools, the Shadow Schools Minister, added:

“After two years of unprecedented chaos and disruption to children’s education, we saw nothing to support children’s catch-up learning in the classroom, and nothing to tackle the day-to-day challenges pupils and teachers are facing. This government is failing our next generation.

“Labour in government would recruit 6,500 new teachers, back them with improved professional development and ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life, with professional careers advice and work experience for all.”

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Portsmouth MP opens ‘Tops Day Nursery’ in Southsea following national award

Stephen Morgan MP officially opened Tops Day Nursery in Southsea today, following a tour of the facilities on Bruce Road – an award-winning childcare provider for Portsmouth.

During the event, the Portsmouth MP met with staff and children attending the nursery, following a meeting with Cheryl Hadland, founder and Managing Director of Tops Day Nurseries and the Nursery Manager, to discuss future plans and challenges.

Tops Day Nurseries has 8 nurseries across Hampshire, including Tops Portsmouth based onsite at Queens Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and now Tops Southsea in Bruce Road.

Employing 750 people, Tops Day Nurseries was set up in 1990 and operates 32 nurseries across the South Coast, educating and caring for children in their early years.

It comes following news this week that Tops Day Nurseries has been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development. The award was given for Tops Day Nurseries driving ‘genuine and inspiring’ change to its sector.

Cheryl Hadland provides thought leadership and challenges industry norms, such as tackling the huge range of disposable items and one-use plastics, including nappies, gloves and glitter normally used in the sector.

Officially opening the nursery with children and staff, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

I’m delighted to be able open Tops Day Nursery Southsea today, adding further support to parents in our city through providing crucial childcare services.   

“Cheryl and her team have done a fantastic job here, and it was really useful to speak to them about plans for the future, issues they face and of course congratulate them on their latest award!”

“With the cost-of-living crisis, many nurseries and childcare providers are facing real financial challenges and parents with small children feeling the pinch in their pockets. That’s why I will continue to speak up for local families and the early years sector in Parliament to ensure every child in Portsmouth is able to access a high-quality early education.”

Speaking after the official opening event, Cheryl Hadland said:

“I am delighted Stephen Morgan, MP has been to re-open and tour our Tops Day Nursery in Bruce Road, Southsea, and was also able to celebrate our Queens Award for sustainability with us.

“Collaboration is an important part of sustainability so it was lovely to have local writer Neal Leyton read his Planet full of Plastic, local music makers Boogie Mites teach us their new sustainability song, and our LGBTQ+ leader Simon King and manager at Tops QA come to celebrate with us as well.

“Sadly, funding for 3-4 year olds from the government has not kept up with costs at Tops Southsea, and this reduces our ability to pay our staff what they deserve and burdens parents with having to pay more towards their children’s education and care than any other parents in Europe. We also want a healthier environment and future for our children and grandchildren, with fewer diesel and petrol fumes, more attention to reducing waste and recycling and to reducing carbon footprints. 

“Therefore, I look forward to working with our local MP to campaign for a more sustainable future for childcare providers, parents, and children.”

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School energy bills doubled last year as cost-of-living crisis threatens learning

Children’s learning and opportunities are being put at risk, Labour has warned, as the Conservatives’ failure to get a grip on rising prices puts the squeeze on school budgets.

School energy bills doubled in the last year, according to data compiled by the House of Commons Library, with further price rises expected as fixed term contracts come to an end.

The new figures suggest that non-domestic gas and electricity prices almost doubled in 2021, mainly driven by the rise in the cost of wholesale gas prices.

Headteachers last year warned they were being forced to strip back additional support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, staff numbers and activities such as breakfast and afterschool clubs.

Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan MP has urged Ministers to work with schools to ensure children do not lose out on further opportunities due to cost pressures.

Unlike domestic customers, schools are not subject to the energy price cap, meaning there is no limit on the price rises they could face as wholesale prices increase.

An investigation by SchoolsWeek recently found that schools in the North East could expect their bills to rise by to one and a half times their current level as prices soar.

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“Children have already faced huge disruption due to the government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, made worse by Downing Street, is further squeezing school budgets.

“Ministers must get a grip and engage with schools to ensure children do not lose out on further opportunities.

“Labour is calling on the government to prioritise children’s learning and development post-pandemic, with breakfast and afterschool clubs, tutoring and mental health support. The Education Secretary must match this ambition with a proper plan to secure children’s futures.”

 

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Schools White Paper fails to deliver for children in Portsmouth, says City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has warned that the government’s Schools White Paper shows no plan, no vision and no ambition for children’s education in Portsmouth as 8 in 10 schools are told to carry on as normal.

Labour is calling on the government to focus on children’s experience in the classroom, not bureaucratic tinkering with school structures.

Children in England missed over ten million school days for Covid-related reasons in the last term alone. Meanwhile, pupil absences are also up 35 per cent since the start of January and a quarter of schools have 15 per cent of their teachers and leaders off work.

As a result, the Portsmouth MP warned of the ‘stark scale of the generational challenge we now face.’

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an average loss of six months of schooling for students could see a reduction in their lifetime income of 4%. This equates to a total of £350 billion in lost earnings for the 8.7 million school-aged children in the UK.

The government has admitted that most schools are already hitting their new target for the length of the school day, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said the evidence for lengthening the school day was “not as good as it could have been”.

In September, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer set out Labour’s determination to drive-up standards for all school with the most ambitious school improvement programme for a generation. Labour’s plan would include getting 6,500 new teachers into our schools, alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills in every child’s learning so young people leave education ready for work and ready for life, equipped with the skills they need for the future.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, said:

“Once again we have a smoke and mirrors announcement from a Conservative government that has simply run out of ideas. 

“This White Paper is looking backwards showing no plan, no vision and no ambition for children in Portsmouth.

“Children have endured two years of chaos and disruption to their learning and pre-pandemic thousands were leaving school without the skills and qualifications they need.

“But the government isn’t tackling any of this. They’re obsessing over structures not driving up standards.

“Labour is focused on making a difference to children in the classroom. We would be delivering the trained staff our schools need because the success of teachers enables the success of our children.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary said:

 “Parents will be surprised to hear that a focus on helping every child develop good reading, writing and maths skills is a new discovery for the Education Secretary. This isn’t an add on that any parent should have to ask for, it’s the fundamentals of a good school system.

“Today’s ‘pledge’ acknowledges that 12 years of Conservative governments have failed to get the basics right.

“Labour has been listening to parents, pupils and school staff. We would be delivering our ambitious Children’s Recovery Plan and getting on with delivering plans for 6,500 new teachers filling skills gaps across the profession alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills for every child so they get a brilliant education which equips them with the skills they need for work and for life.”

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Portsmouth MP sees Reading Recovery in action at New Horizons Primary School

Stephen Morgan MP visited New Horizons Primary School today to see first-hand how national initiative Reading Recovery is supporting young students with their reading.

Reading Recovery is a literacy programme designed for the lowest achieving children aged around six that enables them to reach age-expected levels within 20 weeks.

Visiting the school, the Portsmouth MP was able to learn more about how Reading Recovery and a range of other literacy interventions, which are trained by a local Reading Recovery teacher at the school, supports vulnerable learners and offers a safety net to those beginning to fall behind in literacy.

Based at the UCL Institute of Education, the Reading Recovery network supports hundreds of schools across the UK, who use it as an early intervention strategy to reduce the number of children experiencing literacy difficulties.

Each school involved is able to personalise learning, making sure that the phonics teaching fits with the school’s phonics programme.

According to UCL’s Institute for Education, nearly 20% of children (126,356) in England do not meet the expected standards in the Year 1 phonics test. In 2017, nearly 20,000 11-year-olds had reading standards so low that they either could not be entered for the National Reading Test, or took the test but did not achieve any score.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“It’s been really useful to see first-hand at New Horizons Primary School the work Reading Recovery is doing to support young people with their reading.

“Students have faced an unprecedented level of disruption to their learning over the last two years, so it’s vital they are able to get the extra support where it’s needed to help them catch up.

“Despite the work of schemes like this one, government cannot rely on them to paper over the cracks as more and more Portsmouth children continue to be at risk of being left behind.

“Only Labour’s Education Recovery has the ambition and vision to match the scale of the challenge ahead. I will continue to lobby Ministers to secure the very best for local students’ futures.”

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Shadow Schools Minister: New online learning academy must not add to household bills

Stephen Morgan MP pushed Ministers in the House of Commons today to confirm that access to the government’s new online Oak National Academy services would not add to the cost-of-living crisis families across the country are facing.

It was reported last week that Oak National Academy is to be made into a new government arm’s-length body designed to provide free curriculum resources to schools across the UK.

Tes revealed that Oak would remain free until spring 2022 and had received a further £2.1 million in government funding to “stay open” until the end of the current spring term to “support Covid-19 resilience and teacher workload”.

Meanwhile, as the cost-of-living crisis continues to grip the country, Ofcom’s recent affordability report found that 1.1 million households are struggling to afford broadband.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has also warned digital exclusion is more likely to be faced by those on low incomes, people over 65 and disabled people.

According to the House of Commons Library, Portsmouth South only has 38.4% gigabit broadband availability, 7.3% lower than the UK average of 45.7%.

It comes as the Portsmouth MP continues to tackle loneliness in the city and bridge the ‘digital divide’, after many vulnerable families with no affordable digital tools or skills were cut-off from the outside world over the last two years.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“It’s welcome that government has embraced this innovation from teachers with this important step, but struggling families need certainty that this will not add to their already skyrocketing bills because of the Tory cost-of-living crisis.

“After an unprecedented level of disruption to children’s learning over the last two years, inequalities must not be further widened by students being unfairly priced out of the education they need and deserve.

“I will continue to push Ministers to ensure no child is left behind in accessing essential digital learning and skills and every effort is made to bridge the digital divide.”

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National Careers Week: Portsmouth MP backs pledge to ensure young people leave education life-ready and job-ready

Stephen Morgan MP has backed plans to deliver professional careers guidance in schools to ensure young people leave education ready for work and ready for life, as the city marks National Careers Week.

 

Labour has committed to ensuring every young person gets professional information, advice and guidance on their future study and career options alongside two weeks’ worth of work experience while at secondary school, helping students to make informed choices about their future. 

 

The government cut back careers advice in 2011, despite headteachers warning it could leave two million young people with the support they need. Pre-pandemic data showed that this had left two thirds of young people without professional careers advice and almost half reporting that they felt unprepared for the future. 

 

Last month, the Conservatives voted against giving young people careers advice as part of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, blocking plans to ensure young people have the skills and support they need to succeed.

 

Alongside recruiting over a thousand new careers advisors for schools, Labour’s plan to ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and for life would embed digital and life skills across the curriculum and ensure all young people have access to laptops and technology, ensuring they have the skills they need to succeed and prosper. 

 

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Careers guidance is essential to ensuring young people in Portsmouth and across the country are aware of the opportunities that are open to them and setting them on the path to success.

“Yet Conservatives MPs voted against Labour’s plans to reintroduce this essential support for young people after abolishing the former careers service.

“Labour is committed to ensuring that every child receives professional careers guidance, coupled with two weeks’ worth of work experience while at school, as part of our plans to ensure young people leave education ready for work and ready for life.” 

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Portsmouth MP votes to ensure every young person is ‘ready for work’ as city faces steep skills drop

Stephen Morgan MP voted in the House of Commons today to ensure every child in Portsmouth is ‘ready for work’, as city faces a skills shortage.

Since 2015, the number of apprenticeships starts in Portsmouth has fallen by 42% – equivalent to 900 fewer apprenticeships over the last six years. According to the latest data from the Department for Education, only 1,220 people in Portsmouth started an apprenticeship in 2020/21, compared to 2,120 in 2015/16.

Nationally, there has been a drop of almost 200,000 in the number of people starting an apprenticeship over the last decade.

Ahead of its final stages in the House of Commons today, Labour said the government’s Skills Bill would ‘create new structures and bureaucracies, but will do little to tackle the major skills shortages in key sectors including, health and social care, manufacturing or engineering’.

Labour tabled changes to the government bill to:

  • require face to face careers guidance for every pupil and two weeks’ worth of compulsory work experience, highlighting Labour’s Ready for Work Ready for Life policies announced at our Annual Conference;
  • ensure Mayoral Combined Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities are part of drawing up Local Skills Improvement Plans alongside Employer Representative Bodies;
  • establish a 4-year moratorium on Level 3 qualifications;
  • require IFATE to perform a review of the operation of the apprenticeship levy;
  • ensure Employer Representative Bodies have a requirement to have strategies for people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Our apprentices make an enormous contribution to our city’s economy and wider society, but Government is not doing enough to support local young people after a decade of decline.

“Ministers should adopt Labour’s plan to create thousands of new apprenticeships this year, securing the opportunities young people need to gain productive skills and support our economy to prosper.

“I’ve seen first-hand the power of apprenticeships to transform lives after talking with apprentices and employers. That’s why I voted to boost opportunities for local young people and help secure our economy post-pandemic.”

The City MP visited BAE Systems at HMNB Portsmouth last week, which is running an early careers and apprenticeship programme for young people as part of its ‘skills agenda’. The Portsmouth MP also met with young people who are out of work and employers attending the local Jobcentre’s recruitment event last Thursday.

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Children’s Mental Health Week: City MP pays tribute to ‘fantastic’ local charity for young people

Stephen Morgan MP has paid tribute to local charity ‘Off the Record’, which provides counselling services for 11–16-year-olds in Portsmouth, as the city marks Children’s Mental Health Week.

Children’s Mental Health Week aims to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health, with this year’s focus on ‘growing together’.

Off the Record (OTR) offers 1 Clinical Intake Assessment plus 6 weekly 1-2-1 counselling sessions, which are delivered via a choice of face-to-face in person at the OTR centre in Leigh Park, or online via Zoom or over the phone. While on the waiting list young people receive weekly check-in calls from its teams of volunteer support workers.

However, according to the latest Children’s Commissioner report, children’s access to specialist NHS mental health services in England remains a ‘postcode lottery’, with huge differences in spending and referrals depending on where families happen to live.

State of Child Health has also said that in England, a quarter of 11–16-year-olds, and nearly half of 17–19-year-olds, with a mental disorder have self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point in their short lives.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Off the Record is doing a tremendous job for our city in providing services that are desperately needed locally. I’m hugely grateful for their efforts and pleased to be able to see first-hand how they are developing services in our city again, as we mark Children’s Mental Health Week.

“But across the country, it is a postcode lottery when it comes to children’s mental health services and many areas are not fortunate enough to have places like Off the Record that help to paper over the cracks.

“Urgent intervention is needed. Labour’s plan will have a counsellor in every school, create mental health access hubs in our communities, and recruit 8,500 new mental health staff. I continue to fight in Westminster for the mental services our next generation deserves.”