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City MP responds to government exams U-turn

Responding to breaking news that students in England will be given their estimated grades by teachers, not the Ofqual algorithm, Stephen Morgan MP welcomed the U-turn but said it exposed Government’s “incompetence”.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This has been a distressing and uncertain time for students, and after hearing from many young people and their families across Portsmouth, I have been pushing for government to change course and move to teacher assessed grades.

By getting this so wrong, Government risked the life chances for a generation. This U-turn on scrapping the controversial algorithm is a victory for thousands and is the right decision for young people, and for Portsmouth. I commend students affected for powerfully making their voices heard.

As fiasco follows fiasco, it is becoming increasingly obvious that government is incompetent. I will continue to hold them to account on this issue of concern for our city.”

Last week the city MP wrote directly to the Education Secretary urging the Government to change tac by awarding teacher predicted grades and demanding a technical review of the system ahead of GCSE results later this week.

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Portsmouth MP backs children’s road safety campaign

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, has backed the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers’ (APIL) ‘Injury Prevention Week’ campaign, encouraging parents to discuss the importance of road safety with their children.

APIL, the not-for-profit campaign group, has underlined the importance of road safety for children as they prepare to head back to school next month.

According to a YouGov survey, two-thirds of parents do not think their children have a good understanding of the dangers on our roads, while one in eight are very concerned about their children’s safety when navigating our roads.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“As many young students and families in Portsmouth prepare to head back to school next month, it’s vital we ensure children are fully aware of the dangers of the roads and have a good understanding of the highway code.

“Neither parent nor child should be concerned about a young student’s journey to school, and any initiative to help make it that much safer I fully endorse. It is why I am proud to support APIL’s campaign on this important issue.”

Children aged fifteen and under account for around a quarter of pedestrian injuries and deaths in the UK (according to APIL), whilst similar pedestrian traffic collisions for the same age group amount to a fifth in Portsmouth South.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“In the past few years, there have been too many avoidable pedestrian traffic collisions in our city involving young people, and I am committed to doing all I can to ensure this does not continue to happen.

It’s been a particularly difficult period for both students and parents over the last few months, and I’m keen that the last thing children and parents alike are worrying about is a young student’s ability to travel to and from school safely.”

 

 

 

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Covid-19: City MP highlights need for Government action on children’s mental health

With schools not expected to open fully until September at the earliest, educational psychologists are issuing stark warnings about the impacts on children’s mental health.

During today’s education questions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP pushed the Secretary of State to clarify the Government’s strategy for meeting children’s mental health needs amid Covid-19.

Mr Morgan’s actions follow data revealing calls to Childline are rising and YoungMinds has found that around 4 in 5 children with pre-existing mental health problems have had these problems worsened in this crisis, while referrals for CAMHS have been down by as much as 50% in some areas.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Lack of social interaction, increased risk to vulnerable children, reduced learning and a diminished peer contact is having severe mental health implications for children across the nation.

While demand has increased drastically, statistics show that provision has dropped by up to 50% in some areas. There are two pandemics at play here, Covid-19 and also the impacts it is having on mental health. Both are equally important and potentially dangerous.

I will continue to ask government the tough questions about when and how they will put measures in place to secure mental health provision.”

88% of school staff surveyed by Barnardo’s said that Covid-19 would have a negative impact on their pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. While 78% of respondents to the YoungMinds survey reported that additional pastoral support, such as in-school counselling, would be helpful, in order to support children as they return to school.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“The looming crisis in children’s mental health comes at a time when provision is already under heavy strain.

Data exposed by The Children’s Society in 2019 found that around 60 per cent of those referred, approximately 110,000 children, were not treated that year for mental health needs.

While I welcome government allocating long-overdue funding to CAHMS services, we need a strategy now that details exactly how Minister’s plan to safeguard the nation’s children from the threat of the mental health emergency.”

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Government U-turn to fund free school meals is the ‘decent thing to do’ says Portsmouth MP

Government have a committed a major U-turn and today agreed to fund free school meals during the summer holidays. A move welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP, who has been lobbying the Prime Minister to reverse his original decision.

In Portsmouth, over 5,000 children were at risk of going hungry this summer if government were to withdraw support for the provision of free school meals. This prompted action from the city MP who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister which gathered just shy of 600 hundred signatures in less than 24 hours.

With the added financial strain of coronavirus and social distancing measures, many Portsmouth families were deeply concerned by the prospect of losing holiday lunch schemes. It is expected that an additional 200,000 children will fall below the poverty line due to the pandemic, making this food provision a vital lifeline for families across Portsmouth and the UK.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

‘’Children were at a heightened risk of going hungry this summer as the Covid-19 crisis hits family incomes while charities and food banks struggle to provide the same level of holiday support.

There was always a simple solution to this, and that was for the government to continue funding free school meals throughout the summer holidays. Their refusal to do so until today was a deeply callous move. It is encouraging that they have taken heed of warnings from MPs, public figures, charities and the Labour Party. However, we should not be at a point where we have to fight to feed the children of struggling families.

That is why I launched a campaign, with local people, to help force the reversal of the Government’s decision and will continue to speak out in favour of maintaining support for all those struggling amid this pandemic.”

The Government today caved in on their decision to stop free school meals over the summer after a passionate plea from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rushford, pressure from a number of MPs and ahead of an opposition day debate in Parliament headed up by Labour. The Government were planning to vote against the motion to restore the scheme for the holidays.

On the Prime Minister’s U-turn, the city MP added:

“Some are calling this a major U-turn by Government. I’m calling this a victory for common sense and decency.

The untold hardship faced by families at this time of uncertainty requires government to be looking at increasing support, not stripping it away. What really matters is no one should ever go hungry over the holidays. While the immediate threat of holiday hunger may be in hand, we now need to look at the root causes.

Holiday hunger is not new. Longer term, the Government must address the underlying cause of holiday hunger: child poverty, low wages and insecure work.”

Ahead of the government’s decision reversal, the city MP had written an open letter garnering hundreds of public signatures, backed Labour’s “Holidays without Hunger” campaign, and supported the Opposition Day Debate on the issue. He has vowed to continue taking action to combat child poverty throughout Covid-19 and beyond.

 

 

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City MP urges Portsmouth people to help put pressure on PM over Free School Meal removal

In response to the Prime Minister’s plans to take away meals from the children of struggling families, Stephen Morgan MP has orchestrated a mass signed letter urging the Government to reconsider.

In England, 1.3 million children rely on free school meals. Normally children only get free meals from school during term-time but eligible pupils received food vouchers over Easter as the country coped with the Covid crisis. Government is threatening to take away this vital lifeline which is helping feed hungry children from family’s struggling amid the pandemic.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This government has presided over a decade of inequality and injustice that has only been enhanced by Covid-19.

To now risk taking food away from hungry children because term time has ended is counterproductive and only kicks struggling families while they are down.

Hunger doesn’t stop when kids get home. Parents know how important a healthy diet is for children – and for children from struggling families, these meals are a lifeline. Once school is out, these families’ kids will get left behind unless the PM changes his mind.”

The Department for Education said the scheme will not continue in the summer holidays, but campaigners say children in vulnerable families will go hungry. This has prompted high profile individuals such as Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, to also write to all Members of Parliament about the matter.

Sustain and the Good Law Project, led by the campaigning lawyer Jolyon Maugham have also pledged that they will challenge the government’s decision in the courts if necessary, something that Stephen Morgan MP has also pledged support for.

Mr Morgan added:

“This pandemic has made the serious structural inequality in this country unmissable.

In the long-term we need the Prime Minister to lead efforts by Government to tackle the causes of child poverty. Right now, we need him to step up, show leadership, and make sure the 1.3 million children don’t go hungry this summer.

I know how important this issue is to constituents. That’s why I am urging fellow Portsmouth people to sign my open letter urging the Government to act.”

You can sign Stephen’s letter to the Prime Minister, here: https://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/holidayhungercampaign/

 

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Sign: Letter to the Prime Minister to stop holiday hunger

Many constituents have got in touch after reading Marcus Rashford’s open letter to all Members of Parliament. Stephen welcomes this letter and supports calls for Government to make sure no child goes hungry this summer by funding Free School Meals.

Please add your name to Stephen’s letter to the Prime Minister to lobby Government to stop kids going hungry:

 

 

Thank you for signing the letter. Stephen Morgan and the Labour Party will use the personal information you provided for the purpose of the Holiday Hunger campaign. Where you have opted in, Stephen and the Labour Party may contact you via the communication channels you have chosen and for the purposes specified. We may also contact you by post using the electoral register, which Stephen is entitled to use as an MP and the Labour Party is entitled to use to further its objectives as a political party. You can opt out of communications from us or manage your preferences at any time. For more information about how we use personal data please click here

 

 

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City MP responds to SAGE verdict that it is unsafe to reopen schools on 1 June

On 28 May 2020, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that it there was not evidence suggesting that it would be safe for schools to reopen. Despite this, Government remains committed to opening early next month.

Alongside teachers’ unions, and after listening to constituents’ concerns, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has taken a number of important actions to hold the government to account for this decision-making.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government continues to repeat that we must be led by science but continues to ignore the advice of Independent SAGE when it comes to school reopening.

Returning to school is a priority for the sake of pupils’ education and well-being however I believe schools should only open when it is safe to do so.

Teachers do a fantastic job in educating our children and young people and have been working throughout this pandemic to support the families they work with.

Whilst I welcome efforts made by the city council in engaging schools and teaching unions, I remain concerned that the Government has failed to provide assurances to parents, school staff, and pupils, only publishing their plans a few days before the end of half term”.

On 28 May 2020 the Prime Minister said the Government will move forward with its plan for some pupils to return to schools in England from 1 June 2020.

On the same day, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that “decisions on school opening should be guided by evidence that there are low levels of Covid-19 infections in the local community in which the school is situated and the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through a well-functioning, coordinated, local test, track and isolate strategy.”

SAGE argued that it has “seen no compelling evidence that these conditions have so far been met across the country”. They continued to say, “Until they are, it is not safe to open schools everywhere on June 1.”

The city MP added:

“The Government has repeatedly been asked to set up a taskforce of education unions, parents’ organisations and health experts to agree upon a series of practical safety measures that must be met before any date for reopening was confirmed.

It is vital that the Government carries the confidence of trade unions, school staff and parents. It must work closely with them to ensure safety concerns are addressed.

I will continue to hold government to account for, what has been so far, deeply misguided decision-making.

The need to get this right could not be more important, all choices must be informed by evidence and fact. Pupil and teacher safety must come first”.

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking a variety of actions on schools returning for some time, concerns over the safety and well-being of pupils and school staff.

Already he has written out to all schools in the constituency during this crisis, hosted a ‘School Call’ open consultation with parents; liaised with teaching unions and city council; written to the Education Secretary with local concerns; and continues to raise the matter in Parliament.

He continues to join frontbench colleagues in calling for government to set up taskforce. A copy of the report from Stephen’s School Call and the concerns raised by participants can be found on his website.

 

 

 

 

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City MP hosts ‘School Call’ bringing together parents, teachers and unions over concerns on school reopenings

Last night, Stephen Morgan MP teamed up with NEU President Amanda Martin and brought together parents and teachers for an open consultation.

The constituency-wide conversation – which took place via zoom – follows Government’s controversial proposals to send some pupils back on the 1 June, a decision slammed by unions and parents alike.

The conference call included addresses from the National Education Union  President and the city MP about the national lobbying effort to make sure that when schools reopen, they are safe for both pupils and staff.

City MP Stephen Morgan set out his parliamentary actions before opening up for questions and agreeing to take forward a set of actions in support of concerned parents and schools’ staff.

Amanda Martin, the President of Europe’s largest teaching union, spoke on the NEU’s 5 tests, current gaps in evidence and the problems with comparing the UK with nations such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government’s current proposals for reopening schools put pupils and teaching staff at risk. The consensus among teachers, unions and parents in the consultation revealed deep set and justified concerns.

We all want pupils back at school, but everyone loses if the proper preparations are not made. Lack of accurate guidance on workplace safety, unsubstantial scientific evidence supporting the proposed return date and the non-existent national testing strategy need to be addressed before dates are set.

There is a lot at risk if this is not done properly. I have already taken action alongside teaching groups in holding government to account for this decision. I will continue to work on the set of actions agreed through our discussions yesterday.”

Prior to the meeting, Stephen Morgan MP had already written to the Education Secretary, submitted a string of written questions and established communication with every school in the constituency.

NEU President, Amanda Martin said:

“Lack of published scientific evidence, patchy workplace safety guidelines and an absence of a testing process mean that reopening schools in early June runs the risk of harm coming to teachers and pupils.

I will continue work alongside Stephen to apply pressure on government to meet the NEU’s 5 tests, which have been backed by the British Medical Association and Parentkind.”

Over 40 attendees took part in the consultation. The main concerns raised included transparency in government decision making, the need for science-based evidence, importance of ongoing communication, and the lack of planning for the looming mental health crisis.

Mr Morgan added:

“This is not about making government’s job harder. It is about highlighting the areas they must address to keep pupils and teaching staff safe.  

The agreed set of actions yesterday will build upon the work that we have already done to hold government to account.”

Actions agreed yesterday included lobbying government to meet the NEU’s 5 tests through parliamentary questions and ministerial engagement, maintaining regular communication, applying pressure to government to implement a strategy for dealing with mental health implications, and continued use of parliamentary process to access scientific data.

 

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Stephen’s School Call report

Lots of parents and school staff have been contacting Stephen over the last few days about schools reopening.

Stephen believes the Government didn’t think this through before making the announcement, and many headteachers – while trying to plan – are still uncertain what they are being asked to do. As an MP Stephen is doing what he can to help worried teachers and parents.

On Wednesday 20 May Stephen held a ‘School Call’ for parents and teachers from across the constituency to discuss views and concerns over the proposed plan by Government for children to start returning to school in the first week of June.

Stephen is calling on Ministers to work with trade unions and local government to agree safety measures, publish the scientific evidence and get much more of the test, trace and isolate system in place.

We all want to see children back in the classrooms but only when we’re confident it is sensible and safe.

The zoom call saw 40 parents and teachers join a discussion with Stephen Morgan MP, Amanda Martin, President of the National Education Union, and Cllr Suzy Horton.

A report from the discussion can be found here: School Call report

 

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Portsmouth schools visit Parliament as part of The Girls’ Network empowering mission

For the third consecutive year, Stephen Morgan MP has hosted a delegation of over 30 girls in Parliament.

The Girls’ Network, an organisation whose mission is to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities, focuses on mentoring to improve confidence.

The city MP orchestrated a tour of parliament and addressed the delegation before engaging in a question and answer session. The Girls’ Network then took organised a workshop focusing on female empowerment and aspiration.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Girls Network do outstanding work in combating female underrepresentation, bolstering confidence in young women, and demonstrating to a generation that they can aim high.

I am honoured to host, for the third time, a delegation of girls in parliament and make this often-inaccessible institution available to young Portsmouth people.

We need to see more women in high office and the centuries of structural sexism redressed. Girls Network are leading the charge and I remain committed to supporting to them in their work.”

93% of girls on the programme last year said it had improved their confidence, and 96% believe the programme has helped them feel more positive about the future.

Fiona Walsh, Portsmouth Network Manager from The Girls’ Network’, said:

Access to parliament and showcasing democracy in practice to young women from The Girls’ Network has the potential to inspire a generation.

We are delighted that Stephen Morgan MP has organised this visit and continues to support our vision of a world with more empowered women.

We look forward to continuing to champion greater access to opportunities for young women and working alongside Stephen Morgan in this endeavour.”

The city MP has long supported Girls’ Network via their Portsmouth branch, supporting them through organising visits, tours, meetings and securing them access to parliament.