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Portsmouth MP welcomes World Bookshop Day and urges constituents to ‘support local’

Stephen Morgan MP has urged city residents to support their local bookshops, as he underlined their importance in education and development whilst shopping at his local bookstore for World Bookshop Day.

As one of the busiest times for the book trade, the coming weeks are when publishers launch their biggest books ahead of the festive shopping period. Booksellers, publishers, authors, illustrators and poets work collaboratively on the campaign to encourage consumers to shop in their local bookshop and ensure their high street is thriving.

Recent data from the Institute of Place Management demonstrated that UK and Irish booksellers play a crucial role in the recovery and regeneration of our high streets, with over 80% of bookshops surveyed contributing to at least 20 of the 25 factors for a thriving town centre.

Growth of websites such as Bookshop.org and Hive over the past few years has allowed online retailers to support independent bookshops offering an alternative to online multinationals.

Purchasing a book from Pigeon Books, a stone’s throw from the city MP’s constituency office on Albert Road, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“It’s so important that we recognise and support the role independent bookshops play in our community, both as contributors to our local economy and as route of access to learning.

“I was really pleased to be able to support local by purchasing a book from Pigeon Books that have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to serve our city. I thank them and all local stores for the crucial part they play in getting Portsmouth reading.

“If you’re out and about this weekend, stop by at a bookstore and support our city’s local businesses.”

You can find your local bookshops at www.booksaremybag.com/HomeSearch.

The city MP hosted an event to promote the work of independent bookstores before Pigeon Books found their home on Albert Road, and regularly showcases the work of local authors.

He settled on Stuart Maconie’s ‘The Nanny State Made Me’ as his Bookshop Day purchase!

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‘Britain will be remade’ – Portsmouth MP reacts to Labour leader’s vision for the country

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his weight behind the vision for the country outlined in Keir Starmer’s leader’s speech at Labour Party conference today.

The Labour leader underlined that a government led by him as Prime Minister will be focused on “Work. Care. Equality. Security.”

During his speech, Mr Starmer set out what he sees are the major challenges Britain faces for the future, including “how we emerge from the biggest pandemic in a century. How we make our living in a competitive world. The climate crisis. Our relationship with Europe. The future of our union.”

He also announced that with Labour in power, his government would deliver Labour’s ‘National Excellence Programme,’ an ambitious school improvement plan, putting state education at the heart of his vision for Britain.

It marks Labour’s shift to focus on improving the prospects of the 40 per cent of young people who leave compulsory education without essential qualifications.

The National Excellence Programme will include:

  • recruiting thousands of new teachers to address vacancies and skills gaps across the profession;
  • reforming Ofsted to focus on supporting struggling schools;
  • providing teachers and headteachers with continuing professional development and leadership skills training.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented,

“Keir’s speech marks a radical departure from what people have heard from Labour in recent years. A Labour government, under his leadership, will retool Britain for the future and make this nation anew.

“The Conservatives are responsible for short-term failures and long-term neglect. Their political response of the moment has been lamentable failure to meet the scale of the challenge.

“Keir’s principles of security, work, care and equality will be the guiding light for a Labour government to deliver a better future for Portsmouth and a Britain that will be remade.”

In addition, Keir Starmer announced in his speech that:

  • Labour will undertake a national mission for greener homes and lower bills. Labour will upgrade the 19 million homes that fall below energy efficiency standards (EPC C).
  • Provide grants to low-income households and low interest loans to those able to pay to cover the cost of retrofitting. Households will pay no upfront costs, and see their bills fall immediately. Support up to 500,000 good, unionised jobs in a range of industries by the mid-decade.
  • Work with local and combined authorities, and the private sector, to recruit and train staff to coordinate and deliver a decade-long upgrade to Britain’s housing stock.

During 2021 Labour Party conference, it was also announced that Labour will:

  • Guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it, setting a new NHS target, ensuring that patients start receiving appropriate treatment – not simply an initial assessment of needs – within a month of referral.
  • Recruit 8,500 new staff so that one million additional people can  every year by the end of Labour’s first term in office.
  • Put an open access mental health hub for children and young people in every community, providing early intervention, drop-in services.

A number of other announcements were also made at this conference previously reported on Stephen’s website.

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Shadow Schools Minister and City MP visit Portsmouth Academy to launch digital education drive

Shadow Schools Minister Peter Kyle and City MP Stephen Morgan have visited The Portsmouth Academy as the secondary school launched an innovative digital education initiative.

The one:one device scheme will give children access to safe, affordable, state of the art laptops for use at home and school. All 250 Year 7 students at the academy now have their own devices to support and enrich their learning across the curriculum.

The MPs saw how the scheme gives teachers more flexibility in the classroom, freeing them from ‘the front’ and increasing the amount of individual support they can provide to students, particularly those who need additional support.

The scheme is part of a city-wide commitment to make Portsmouth a ‘digital city’ over the coming years, improving student attainment by shattering the digital divide and engaging parents in their child’s learning.

The Thinking Schools Academy Trust, of which Portsmouth Academy is part, is working with the City Council to produce a similar digital strategy for all 62 schools and colleges in Portsmouth.

The Portsmouth MP is keen to make sure the scheme is accessible to all local families and will be watching its development with interest.

The pair also met with local Nature Premium campaigners to hear about improving access to wildlife for young people in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“I want every young person in Portsmouth to succeed at school wherever they are from, and whatever their background. Key to unlocking that potential is making sure all pupils have access to good quality and affordable technology.

“The pandemic shone a spotlight on the inequality and unfairness we see in today’s society, with many young people falling through the gaps and victims of the digital divide.

“It was a pleasure to visit Portsmouth Academy to hear how they are addressing this, see first-hand how young people are benefiting as a result, and showcase this to the Shadow Schools Minister in his first visit since taking up the post.

Portsmouth has the opportunity to lead a digital learning revolution. As online learning is becoming a daily reality for children across our city, I will watch with interest to make sure this scheme delivers both for the pupils who need it and struggling local families.”

Natalie Sheppard, Director of Education at the Portsmouth Hub, Thinking Schools Academy Trust, said:

“In Portsmouth, we are passionate about improving life chances for young people and know that technology is key to helping students gain the skills to thrive in a modern world. Schools across the city are working together to bring our collective vision of making Portsmouth an Edtech city to life. By collaborating and sharing our expertise and learning, we can use technology to enhance teaching and learning for all our young people across the city.

“It was fantastic to showcase to our MP and the Shadow Schools Minister how these concepts are working in practice and highlight some of the great work taking place at schools across Portsmouth. To be one of the key parties involved in leading such a ground-breaking project for the city is an honour and our team are driven to future-proof students for their careers by teaching them essential tech skills. With the programme gaining real momentum, we are greatly appreciative of the support of Mr Morgan and Mr Kyle.”

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Portsmouth MP joins The Reading Agency to encourage people to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through reading  

Stephen Morgan MP has met representatives from The Reading Agency to offer support for their new ‘Read, Talk, Share’ campaign.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South met the group to hear about the new initiative to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading.

The Reading Agency’s work to tackle loneliness and support mental health and wellbeing has played an important part in the nation’s Covid recovery. Its ‘Reading Well’ and ‘Reading Friends’ programmes have already demonstrated the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals.

Enabled by a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, ‘Read, Talk, Share’ will expand the already successful ‘Reading Well’ and ‘Reading Friends’ programmes run by the charity.

The Reading Agency are working closely with Portsmouth libraries and organisations to reach communities through reading, talking, and sharing.

Stephen Morgan MP commented,

“I am delighted to support The Reading Agency’s excellent work to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through reading.

‘The pandemic has taken an undeniable toll on our health and wellbeing. The Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes are important tools to help improve our mental health as we emerge from the immediate crisis.

“With helpful books recommended by health experts now easily accessible to readers for borrowing and e-lending from Portsmouth libraries I encourage anyone needing support to check with their local library for more information.”

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said,

“Tackling loneliness and supporting mental health and wellbeing across the country has always been a priority for The Reading Agency. The ongoing Covid-19 crisis’ impact on the country’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing cannot be underestimated, and our Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes are perfectly placed to assist the nation in recovery.

“We are immensely grateful to DCMS for their support – this feels like a real vote of continued confidence in the role of public libraries and their important contribution to society.”

During the meeting Stephen also heard about this years’ Summer Reading Challenge.  Delivered in partnership with public libraries and funded by Arts Council England, the Challenge encourages children to read over the summer holidays, providing lots of fun as well as helping to prevent the summer reading ‘dip’.

Each year the Challenge motivates more than 700,000 children to keep reading to build their skills and confidence. This year’s theme is Wild World Heroes, created in partnership with WWF and illustrated by award-winning children’s author and illustrator Heath McKenzie.

The Portsmouth MP added,

I am pleased to once again supporting The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge, which encourages reading for pleasure for children aged four to 11 over the summer holidays.

“I look forward to seeing those who take part at the Awards Ceremony at Southsea Castle on Sunday 19 September to collect their medal.”

To take part visit any Portsmouth library to sign up, get a free pack and choose some books to get started. Alternately, you can sign up online at www.summerreadingchallenge.org.uk

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Extracurricular activities are in freefall for primary-age children, with poorest kids hit the hardest

New analysis published by the Labour Party today reveals how participation in extracurricular activities for primary-age school children is in freefall under the Tories.  

Analysis of the Government’s Taking Part Survey data shows declining participation for primary age children over the last ten years – with trends pre-dating the pandemic, including:

  • 13% decrease in competitive sports inside and outside of school
  • 36% decrease in participation in music
  • 45% decrease in dance activities
  • 47% decrease in theatre and drama
  • 16% decrease in visits to heritage sites
  • 18% decrease in visits to libraries, and
  • 13% decrease in visits to museums

Children from the poorest backgrounds are three times more likely not to take part in any extracurricular activities. 

Responding to the figures, Labour’s Shadow Child Poverty Secretary Wes Streeting MP is today announcing Labour’s ambition for all children to have the opportunity to undertake ten life-enhancing activities by the time they are ten, including playing a musical instrument, taking part in competitive sport and learning to swim and ride a bike.

Shadow Child Poverty Secretary Wes Streeting MP said:  

“Every child matters. Whatever their background – every child should have the chance to take part in activities that open their eyes to new opportunities. Whether that’s learning to swim, playing a musical instrument or visiting a gallery or museum to discover more about the culture and history of our great country.

“We only get one childhood and over the last ten years of Conservative government too many children have been denied experiences that set them up well for learning and for life.

“It’s Labour’s ambition that all children have the opportunity to take part in ten life-enhancing activities by the time they’re ten. And we offer to the Conservative government a plan to make it happen. If they won’t step up for the nation’s children, the next Labour government will.”

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“Being born and raised in Portsmouth I have seen first-hand how extra-circular activities can enrich the learning and lives of local children.

“But the Tories in government have allowed participation to collapse, reinforcing existing disadvantage for primary-age kids in our area and slamming the door to better life chances,

“Labour’s plan offers children the opportunity to learn fundamental skills and immerse themselves in new experiences we used to take for granted. After a year like no other where our children have been among the worst affected, it is Labour taking the welfare of future generations seriously. It’s time this government did too.”

Labour has published its Children’s Recovery Plan. The Plan would deliver sport, drama, breakfast clubs, debating and a fully expanded range of extracurricular clubs and activities. This would boost time for children to play and socialise after months of lost learning – and after a decade of declining participation in extracurricular activities (see table in Notes to Editors).

Labour will celebrate the role of organisations like Scouts, Girlguiding, uniformed cadets and community initiatives from across the country to highlight the role of the third sector in helping to realise our aspiration for all children.

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Portsmouth MP catches up with YMCA after challenging year for local nurseries

Stephen Morgan MP has visited the local Portsea YMCA nursery, meeting with one of the leading early-years provider’s regional directors and its local manager, to discuss ongoing concerns about the stability of the sector.

YMCA is the largest charity provider of Early Years Education across England, working with 5,398 children each year across 83 childcare settings.

The charity is particularly focused on working in low income communities where families face multiple vulnerabilities and often need the greatest support.

Back in January, the Portsmouth MP wrote out to over 40 early years and childcare providers across his constituency to hear their views and concerns and was visiting the local nursery on Friday to follow-up on this work.

Many early years providers in the UK currently face financial uncertainty due to the impact of national Covid-19 restrictions.

According to a Coram report in December, 58 per cent of local authorities think that local childcare providers may close for good, leading to calls for immediate investment and clarity about future funding arrangements.

Earlier this year, Mr Morgan demanded the Education Ministerial team take action on funding for early years and childcare providers across the country during departmental questions in the House of Commons.

He also wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP, outlining his priorities for local education in Portsmouth, including his concerns about the financial pressures nurseries are currently facing.

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

It’s great to be able to catch-up in person now with the YMCA to understand their views and concerns after what’s been an incredibly challenging period.

“It’s clear to see the fantastic work YMCA does for local families here in Portsmouth and across England, but along with many early-years providers across the country, they’ve been left behind by this government.

“The government has got to provide the support that is required for local early-years providers that has been woefully lacking this past year, to ensure young people catch-up on crucial early-life development, as well as make sure young families are able to get back to work and be part of our recovery from this crisis.”

The Portsmouth representative has vowed to continue to work on behalf of early-years education providers to secure the support and funding they need.

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City MP votes to defeat Conservatives “divisive and harmful hate speech Bill”

City MP Stephen Morgan has voted to defeat the Conservatives’ new law for universities, branded a “hate speech bill”.

The Conservatives’ planned law would enable people from Holocaust Deniers to anti-vaxxers to sue universities or student unions if they are denied a platform to spread their ideas.

Mr Morgan has backed Labour’s record in Government which saw the Party enshrine the right to freedom of expression in UK, but warned the Conservatives’ plans are trying to solve a problem which does not exist resulting in people with offensive and dangerous views being able to sap funding from universities. 

There is no evidence to support the Conservatives’ claim that further action is needed to protect free speech on university campuses. A survey last year found just six out of 10,000 events on campus been cancelled – four due to incorrect paperwork, one was moved to a larger venue, and one was to promote a pyramid scheme.

However, the Government’s plans would open the door to vexatious legal action, which risks tying up universities and student unions in costly legal battles. Alongside external speakers, university staff would be given a new right to take out legal action against institutions if they were passed over for promotions or new jobs, while student unions could face court battles if they turned away speakers.

Conservative MPs lined up to vote for the proposals which could put universities in a position where they are being sued by anti-vaxxers, Holocaust Deniers and those looking to spread division across our campuses.

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan said:

“It’s disgraceful that the Conservatives’ are introducing new laws that could give a boost to Holocaust Deniers, anti-vaxxers and people harmful to the public interest.

“Students have been neglected throughout the pandemic and the Government has failed to create the jobs and training opportunities young people need. Instead they are manufacturing a debate that will sow division and hate.

“These are clearly the wrong priorities for Britain and I’m proud to stand against these dangerous plans.” 

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Portsmouth MP gets ‘sneak peak’ of new university sports complex

Stephen Morgan MP has been given a ‘sneak peak’ of the University of Portsmouth’s new sports facility as the city’s new asset nears completion.

The reported £57m Ravelin Sports Centre in the heart of Portsmouth will feature a swimming pool, climbing wall, ski simulator and sports hall – as well as a 175-station fitness suite.

The Portsmouth MP was able to tour the new sports facilities and met with the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Graham Galbraith, and Fiona Bell, Director of Estates & Campus Services, to learn more about the community benefits the investment will bring to the city.

Mr Morgan has been working alongside the University as it takes forward its commitments as part of the Civic Commission to be a strong local neighbour to communities across the city.

Following the visit, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“It was really useful to be on-site today to learn more about the university’s ambitions for what looks to be a really exciting addition to our city.

“Access to facilities like this provide the much needed physical and mental health benefits many students have missed out on this year, so it’s really encouraging to see this new long-term high-quality asset from the University not only for our student population, but for the whole city.”

“This is the vision and investment our community needs to recover from this crisis, and I am grateful to the University of Portsmouth for helping to secure it.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Graham Galbraith, added:

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to show Stephen Morgan MP around the University’s new Ravelin Sports Centre today.

“The Sports Centre, set in historic parkland, has outstanding sustainability credentials and will be available for students, staff as well as members of the public.

“Through our Estates Masterplan, the University is investing in both our campus and Portsmouth to ensure our students enjoy the very best facilities while studying at the University.”

The wider community will be able to access the facility through a ‘pay as you go’ membership.

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Portsmouth MP calls government out on ‘meagre’ catch-up proposals for local schoolchildren

Stephen Morgan MP puts pressure on ministers in the House of Commons for the ‘meagre’ catch-up for proposals for schoolchildren in Portsmouth. 

Today the city MP used departmental questions to ask the Government their plans to properly support pupils in Portsmouth, lobbying Ministers with written questions. 

It was recently revealed average achievement at the end of compulsory education is lower in Portsmouth compared to the rest of the country, especially for young men.  

Currently, 46% and 59% of boys and girls in Portsmouth achieve 5 or more good GCSEs at age 16 (i.e. grades A*-C), whereas in England this is 52% and 62% for boys and girls. 

Meanwhile, children across the South East have missed an estimated 101 days of in-person school – over half a normal school year – but the Conservatives’ education ‘catch-up’ plan provides just 0.93 per child for every day of in-person school missed.  

It comes after an outcry when the Chancellor rejected recommendations from Boris Johnson’s expert education advisor, Sir Kevan Collins, for a comprehensive package of support for children’s education post pandemic, risking the futures of hundreds of thousands of children and leading to Sir Kevan’s resignation. 

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

Young people are likely to be one of the most severely impacted groups by this pandemic and a first-class education for them will be key for both their own development and our city’s recovery. 

“This government’s current catch-up plan proposals for young students, who missed so much due to this pandemic, fall far short from where they need to be and Portsmouth and the wider region can no longer be an afterthought for this government if we are to truly reset our economy for the better. 

“Young families in Portsmouth deserve so much more and I will continue to push Ministers into action to ensure our city gets the support it deserves.” 

The Portsmouth representative has welcomed Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan – aligned in ambition and scale to Sir Kevan’s recommendations – which would deliver investment of £982 million into the South East to ensure all schools can deliver a new range of activities and support – from sports to drama or music – to fuel post lockdown recovery, whilst starting to address the entrenched learning gap which sees children on free school meals falling behind their peers. 

Mr Morgan has also submitted a range of parliamentary questions and lobbied Government on greater support for early years and childcare providers across Portsmouth and the country. 

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City MP joins vote to force Chancellor to ‘come clean’ on blocking children’s education in Portsmouth

Stephen Morgan MP has today joined Labour Party colleagues in triggering a binding vote in the House of Commons to force the government to publish all communications – including emails and text messages – between the Treasury, Department for Education and Prime Minister’s office regarding the rejection of recommendations for children’s pandemic recovery from Boris Johnson’s expert education advisor, Sir Kevan Collins.

The vote comes after an outcry when the Chancellor rejected Sir Kevan’s recommendation for a comprehensive package of support for children’s education post pandemic, risking the futures of hundreds of thousands of children and leading to Sir Kevan’s resignation.

Children across the South East have missed an estimated 101 days of in-person school – over half a normal school year – but the Conservatives’ meagre education ‘catch-up’ plan provides just 0.93 per child for every day of in-person school missed.

The Portsmouth representative has welcomed Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan – aligned in ambition and scale to Sir Kevan’s recommendations – which builds on the incredible efforts of our education system during the pandemic, by giving all schools the resources to deliver a new range of activities, from sport to music, boosting wellbeing and social development while supporting every child’s learning and investing in education staff.

To build on the incredible work of teachers, school leaders, teaching assistants and support staff during the pandemic, Labour’s plan would deliver investment of £982 million into the South East to ensure all schools can deliver a new range of activities and support – from sports to drama or music – to fuel post lockdown recovery, whilst starting to address entrenched learning gap which sees children on free school meals falling behind their peers.

The member of parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“We all deserve to know the reasons why the Chancellor rejected such a vital plan for our children’s future.

“The Conservatives have treated our children and young people as an afterthought throughout this pandemic and are now failing to deliver the investment needed to help their recovery.

“Labour’s innovative plans, informed by parents, teachers and children, will deliver not just a world-class education for all children in Portsmouth based on play and social development, but fulfilled and confident young people vital for our economic recovery.”

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson MP, added:

“There has been nothing but silence from the Chancellor since the government’s own advisor resigned in protest at his recommendations being scrapped.

“And there has been no reassurance for parents and children as to how the government will help support their wellbeing and development after such a difficult 15 months for their education, mental health and development.

“At the very least, we all deserve to know the reasons why the Chancellor rejected such a vital plan for our children’s future, and unless he U-turns soon, blocking this investment could see our economy take a hit of hundreds of billions of pounds. It’s the ultimate false economy.”

Earlier this month, Mr Morgan backed Labour’s education recovery plan and has also submitted a range of parliamentary questions and lobbied Government on greater support for early years and childcare providers across Portsmouth and the country.