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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.

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Portsmouth MP backs Labour’s bold post-covid education proposals for children to ‘play, learn and develop’

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his support behind Labour’s extensive new education plan for the immediate post-Covid period, fuelled by the widely held understanding that children make academic progress when they are happy and well-supported.

At the heart of the new plans is a focus on ensuring children’s education results in happy, confident, ambitious young people, well prepared for the world of work, no matter where they come from or what type of school they go to.

It comes following recent reports that pupils in Portsmouth missed more than 100,000 days of face-to-face teaching during the autumn term, with many students having to either self-isolate or shield.

Labour’s plan would deliver:

  • Breakfast clubs and new activities for every child: from breakfast clubs to sport, drama, book clubs and debating societies, a fully funded expanded range of extracurricular clubs and activities to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends;
  • Quality mental health support in every school: give every child the support they need to transition back to school and manage personal challenges, with access to qualified in-school counselling staff alongside boosting wellbeing through extra activities;
  • Small group tutoring for all who need it, not just 1%: make small group teaching available to all children who need it not just 1%, by reforming the Government’s failing tutoring programme to make sure no child falls behind because of pandemic disruption;
  • Continued development for teachers: Teachers have had one of the toughest years of their careers – it is only by supporting them with training to stay on top of the latest knowledge and techniques that we can give every child a brilliant classroom experience;
  • An Education Recovery Premium: support every child to reach their potential by investing in children who have faced the greatest disruption during the pandemic from early years to further education, and double the Pupil Premium for children in key transition years, delivering additional support for children who need it most;
  • Ensure no child goes hungry: no child will go hungry with Labour, by extending free school meals over the holidays, including the summer break.

Labour’s announcement comes with a warning from Shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green MP, that the Conservatives are “showing no ambition for our children’s futures”, after reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will only spend £1.5bn on children’s recovery, 10 times less their ‘Catch-up Czar’ Kevan Collins has told Ministers is needed.

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

“If we are to truly build back better from this crisis, we cannot afford for our future generation to not be equipped with the skills and learning they need, to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

“Students have faced serious disruption to their learning during this crisis, so it is only right they are backed with a truly bold and ambitious plan that is needed to get them back on track.

“Labour’s plan would do just that and it has my full support.”

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, also said:

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

“We must match the ambition children have for their own futures and put them at the heart of our national recovery. This is an investment that our children’s futures and the future of our country depends on.”

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‘Government levelling up agenda failing’ says local MP as pupils in class sizes over 30 continue to rise

Stephen Morgan MP has said the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda is failing as new analysis reveals that one in thirteen pupils in Portsmouth are in class sizes over 30.

The new analysis from Labour has shown that since 2010, the number of pupils in classes over 30 in Portsmouth has increased by 233.

This picture is reflected nationally, with Labour analysis of House of Commons data, showing that since 2010:

  • The number of secondary pupils in classes of 31 or more has risen from one in ten to almost one in seven pupils
  • The number of primary pupils in classes of 31 or more has risen from one in nine to one in eight pupils

In Portsmouth, disadvantaged pupils are falling behind their peers in their learning and development, with those in early years five months behind, primary students over ten months behind and secondary students nearly two years behind (23.6 months).

To tackle these inequalities, Labour has launched a new ‘Bright Future Taskforce’ to deliver a long-term strategy for children’s recovery and ensure every child has the chance to fulfil their potential.

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

“Over the last decade the Conservatives have made the wrong choices for children in Portsmouth, overseeing an increase in class sizes and failing to tackle the gap in learning which is holding children back. 

“Labour has launched our Bright Future Taskforce to tackle the damage done by these policies ensuring every child can recover from the pandemic and achieve their potential.”

Upon many students in Portsmouth returning to school last week, Mr Morgan joined Labour’s call for breakfast clubs to recover lost learning as students return.

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Local MP calls for breakfast clubs to recover lost learning as students return

Stephen Morgan MP has joined the Official Opposition’s call for the introduction of catch-up breakfast clubs to help kids in Portsmouth recover lost time with friends and teachers during the pandemic.

The Portsmouth MP is lobbying the Education Secretary in support of the suggested measures to address the disruption to learning and social development of students caused by the pandemic and the latest period of lockdown.

Analysis from Labour shows that children have each lost an average of 109 face-to-face school days. Despite this, there was no mention of children in last week’s Budget and Ministers’ single-year catch-up plan amounts to just 43p a day per child over the next school year.

Labour argues introducing a universal offer for catch-up breakfast clubs would ensure children in Portsmouth receive a healthy breakfast before school, have extra time to socialise and give schools time to provide targeted tuition or catch up support.

The latest action by the Portsmouth South MP follows the launch of Labour’s new ‘Bright Future Taskforce’, which will deliver a long-term strategy for children’s recovery and ensure every child has the chance to fulfil their potential.

In Portsmouth, disadvantaged pupils are falling behind their peers in their learning and development, with those in early years five months behind, primary students over ten months behind and secondary students nearly two years behind (23.6 months).

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

‘’Children in Portsmouth have often been an afterthought for this government; forgotten during in midst of the pandemic, but now also being forgotten in the recovery too.

“Throughout this crisis I have been calling on the government to help address the digital divide and support local disadvantaged children. It is clear this divide has sadly only got wider during this pandemic.

“Introducing universal breakfast clubs would ensure children get a healthy breakfast, which we know is central to children’s ability to learn and enable children to make up for the time lost with their friends and teachers.’’

Mr Morgan has been engaging with parents and school staff throughout the pandemic to hear issues and concerns and take them back to Westminster.

He wrote to the Education Secretary back in January to provide assurances on early years funding when many faced financial uncertainty due to COVID-19 restrictions.