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Portsmouth MP sets out education priorities Government must tackle for city

Stephen Morgan MP lobbies the Secretary of State for Education on key priorities for education in Portsmouth, following school closures and the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams.

With many students now set to learn from home over the coming weeks as the country entered a period of lockdown this week, Mr Morgan has expressed concerns a number of gaps remain that risk creating a generational disadvantage for pupils, as well as unsafe working conditions for staff if not addressed urgently.

The MP’s key priorities set out in a letter to Government, include:

  • Eliminate the digital divide, urging the government to adopt Labour’s proposals to guarantee every child a device and connectivity to safeguard learning during this phase of the pandemic.
  • Keeping staff safe and getting children back into the classroom by setting out a proactive strategy to reopen schools after February half term, including the vaccination of all education staff to keep them safe and get children back into the classroom.
  • Proper financial support for schools by improving financial support to make sure pupils and staff are protected, including nurseries.
  • Plan responsibly for alternative exams by setting out how the Government will support teachers to undertake these new responsibilities, at a time when they are having to work round the clock to implement constantly shifting guidance from the department.

The Portsmouth South MP also called for clarity on a plan for other summer examinations, as well as make alternative arrangements for this week’s BTEC exams, following calls from local parents, colleges and the Association of Colleges.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The uncertainty for pupils, parents and school staff in Portsmouth is seriously concerning and the Secretary of State must clarify the Government’s wider strategy on this immediately.

“I am particularly worried about the impacts this period of lockdown could have on those young people who do not have access to a computer and in turn the damages to their futures this could cause.

“Meanwhile, the Government should also be concentrating its efforts on rolling out the vaccine and getting students back into the classroom as quickly and safely as possible.”

 

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Lockdown: your questions answered

Stephen Morgan’s responses to lockdown FAQs

Below is a list of frequently asked questions on the new national lockdown coming into force this Wednesday (6 January) and some Stephen’s views:

National lockdown

What is the justification for a national lockdown?

It is clear that the virus is out of control, more and more people are getting infected by the disease and this is putting immense pressure on our NHS.  The tiers established by Government put Portsmouth in the toughest of tiers, yet this has not been working well to contain the virus.

Stephen has said that the Government should have acted on the scientific advice it had before Christmas that a lockdown similar to March was needed to get control of the virus. He also believes Ministers must not keep making the same mistakes again, which is why a national lockdown is now necessary.

‘We need a step change in our response from Government to the virus and a national effort to get control of the virus, protect the NHS, vaccinate Britain’ Stephen has said.

What should be included in a national lockdown?

It is right that the Government has set out that the national lockdown is for all of England comparable to the restrictions introduced in March.

Schools are part of the national lockdown but Stephen believes measures need to be put in place to protect working parents, for children to learn at home, and for schools to reopen safely as soon as possible.

Vaccine

What does Stephen want to see happen with the vaccine roll out?

Our country was the first in the world to get the vaccine, we should now aim to be the first in the world to get vaccinated.

Stephen wants to see the Government delivering a vaccination programme with the very least two million people a week getting the jab, with the aim of doubling that figure by the end of February.

Government should recruit an army of volunteers to help and cut the red tape that is making it difficult for retired NHS staff to help out. Ministers should also ensure we have vaccination centres in every local community and provide GPs with the resources they need.

Stephen is calling for Portsmouth to have a vaccination hub as soon as possible, and alongside this, has been calling for mass testing in the community.

The government must also be clear with the public about the number of vaccines we have available every day and getting on with delivering them.

‘The NHS says it is ready – the Government must now deliver’ says Stephen.

The local economy

What financial support should be in place?

Introducing a national lockdown now is the best way to support the economy. If the PM had continued to dither and delay he would have caused greater damage to businesses, jobs and livelihoods in our city.

Stephen has been taken action to ensure the economic package from Government supports businesses through this crisis and reflects the severity of restrictions.

In particular the government should immediately:

  • Use the £2 billion handed back to the Treasury by supermarkets and other large shops to help hard-hit businesses, including those in hospitality, and those who have been excluded from support.
  • Reform the one-off £20-a-head business support payment so that areas that have been in tougher restrictions for longer get more support.
  • Amend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme so people who have got new jobs since October 31st and are now at risk of losing them can be placed on furlough.
  • Find a solution to help those excluded from financial support so far from Government.

Stephen is calling for greater support for Portsmouth in light of the city entering national lockdown after being in the toughest conditions in tier 4.

Schools

Should schools be shut?  

Yes. Stephen has said the closure of schools for most pupils is a huge failure because the Government has lost control of the virus and been too slow.

Education has been Labour’s priority throughout the pandemic and have always said that schools must be the last thing to close.

The switch to remote learning for most pupils now looks inevitable and sadly necessary as part of a national lockdown.

The government need a plan for school closures to ensure that pupils don’t fall behind, that working parents and staff are supported, and that schools are reopened safely as soon as possible.

What provision should be in place for children missing out on school?

We must get children back in school safely as soon as possible, with a clear timeframe for reopening.

During the lockdown, all vulnerable and key worker children who can be in school should be. Stephen is calling on the government to work with schools and councils to ensure that vulnerable children are identified and supported to attend school throughout a national lockdown.

All pupils who are learning remotely must have the resources they need to do so. That means devices and connectivity for all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, and a plan to ensure that nobody is priced out of the education they are entitled to.

What support should there be for working parents?

Working parents face huge challenges in balancing work, childcare, and supporting children’s education. They must have the support they need to do this.

Government and employers must clearly promote the use of the job retention scheme for those who cannot work because of childcare commitments and emphasise the fact that this can be used on a flexible and part-time basis. Nobody should have to choose between their job and support their children.

Stephen believes that we cannot return to the confusion of the first lockdown, when parents did not know if their child could attend school when most pupils learned remotely. The list of critical workers must be clearly communicated to schools and families.

What would need to happen for schools to reopen?

We cannot enter a period in which schools are closed indefinitely – the consequences for children’s education and wellbeing would be devastating and last for years to come.

While school closures were inevitable to reduce the spread of the virus, we must act to ensure that children are not out of school for months.

That is why Stephen is calling on government to set out a clear plan for getting schools open again and any period of school closures must be used to get control of the virus and make schools safer.

The government should look at using a rota system after any period of closures, to ensure that children can begin getting back in the classroom safely as soon as possible.

 

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City MP calls for Education Secretary to act urgently over school return plans

Stephen Morgan MP is demanding that the Education Secretary urgently answers outstanding questions after his shambolic announcement on school reopening led to chaos for parents, pupils and school staff just days before term is due to restart.

Some primary schools across the country face closure in other tier four areas with no clear path to reopening and the Education Secretary’s statements and media appearances so far have shed little light on the situation.

With one working day to go until the return of schools, thousands of parents have been forced to find last minute childcare as over 870,000 – more than one in six – primary age children will be off school for at least the next two weeks.

Accusing the embattled Education Secretary of a “cavalier approach to children’s education”, Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has also demanded a clear and transparent route out of school closures that will ensure that pupils can return to the classroom safely.

The Portsmouth South representative is calling on Gavin Williamson to immediately clarify the announcement made by Government and ensure school and college staff and working families get the support they need to keep children learning safely.

He has also called on the Government to publish the SAGE advice on schools and colleges, stating that parents and school staff deserve to know that the government is taking all possible measures to keep children learning and keep children and staff safe across the whole country.

Demands by Labour to the government include:

  • Publish SAGE’s advice on the return of schools in January;
  • Confirm how many primary schools across England will not be opening as planned, and how many pupils are affected by this;
  • Publish the criteria used to determine which schools have closed and the specific circumstances in which schools will reopen during the new term;
  • Confirm which secondary age students will receive remote learning over the next two weeks;
  • Set out what support is available to families whose children will be off school;
  • Consider pausing the return of university students to campuses in line with the increased in tier 4 stay at home restrictions;
  • Set out how BTEC and vocational and technical exams taking place in January will be supported to go ahead safely and fairly.

Following an urgent letter to the Government this morning, Stephen Morgan MP said: 

“Government incompetence is causing a great deal of stress for parents, pupils, and school and college staff, and risks damaging children’s education, especially as further dither and delay comes just two days before the start of the Spring term.

It was clear that the latest u-turn was needed to provide consistency in London, as Covid infections continue to rise. Portsmouth local authority area moved into tier 4 on Sunday 20 December, with neighbouring Hampshire following shortly after. 

Parents, teachers and my constituents need Ministers to be transparent with their decisions to ensure they are based upon science and data and not just that Portsmouth schools have simply been missed by your Government”.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:

“Gavin Williamson’s cavalier approach to children’s education has put the life chances of a generation at risk.

“He must end the serial incompetence and urgently clarify how many schools are closing, how many more are at risk, and provide a clear path to reopening for all schools affected.

“With just four days to go parents and pupils are confused about the start of term with dedicated school and college staff again being left to pick-up the pieces. Parents, pupils and staff deserve better.”

 

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Portsmouth MP: Government is failing to take proactive, responsible action on return to school

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government’s chaotic approach to the return to school in January.

The City MP blasted the government’s failure today to provide the clarity parents and children need after a statement in the House of Commons from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, made at Labour’s urging.

Williamson announced that the government was triggering the ‘education contingency framework’ and pushing back the staggered return for secondary schools and colleges by one week.

However, he did not clarify in his statement to the House which schools will open and which will remain closed. He also failed to guarantee remote learning access for those students that need it and remained silent on any commitment to a staff vaccination programme.

Labour has also urged the Government to publish SAGE advice about the return of schools and colleges next week, after scientific advisers have said stricter restrictions, including school closures, may be needed. 

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green MP, said: 

Parents, pupils and staff will be increasingly worried by the drip feed of media reports saying scientists have advised the closure of schools in January, yet the Prime Minister has failed to be clear about the advice he has received.

The education secretary must set out a plan for schools and colleges, and provide desperately needed leadership. He must also urgently publish the SAGE advice on schools.”

Responding to the Government’s statement today, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Coronavirus rates are rising, and parents, staff, pupils and our city’s schools are crying out for clarity about the start of term next week.

“The government is failing to take the proactive, responsible action parents and pupils need on the return to school in January. Sadly they got little comfort or much-needed leadership from the Education Secretary tonight.

“I have always been clear that keeping young people learning safely should be a priority for Ministers. But the government’s failures – with a lack of funding for school safety measures to the delayed and chaotic announcement of mass testing – are putting young people’s education in Portsmouth at risk.

“I will continue to listen to concerns and act on them in Parliament for the sake of our city’s children and dedicated school staff”.

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Portsmouth MP joins city school to mark UK Parliament Week

Stephen Morgan MP joined pupils online from a Portsmouth South school to celebrate the tenth annual UK Parliament Week.

UK Parliament Week is an annual festival from 1-7 November, that engages people from across the UK with their UK Parliament, explores what it means to them and empowers them to get involved.

The Portsmouth South MP wrote to all schools the constituency to encourage them to get involved safely or online in the week-long event with a number of groups and local schools coming forward with activities.

This year Mr Morgan was delighted to join all pupils at Cottage Grove Primary School in Southsea for a question and answer session online via zoom. The MP gave pupils an update on his work locally and for Portsmouth in Parliament before inspiring young people to get involved in issues affecting their lives.

Despite 2020’s challenging circumstances, almost 900,000 people took part from all over the UK and across the globe.

Stephen Morgan MP commented:

“I always welcome the involvement of Portsmouth’s young people not just in UK Parliament Week but all year round. I am determined to ensure that our voters and citizens of tomorrow understand how vital their participation is in our democracy.

It is great to know our city has contributed to the 8,000 activities which have taken place this week across the UK despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.”

During the call Mr Morgan encouraged the pupils to write to him to share their ideas and views so can continue to represent them in Parliament.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“It was an absolute pleasure to join pupils from Cottage Grove Primary School to hear their views and concerns. The school is really engaged with parliamentary education projects which is so exciting for our community.

I was really impressed by their interesting and challenging questions ranging from Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement and the regeneration of Somerstown.”

 

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UK Parliament Week 2020 to be celebrated across Portsmouth South

Stephen Morgan MP is inviting everyone in Portsmouth to get involved in UK Parliament Week and join a UK-wide conversation about our democracy, people power and making change happen.  

UK Parliament Week is an annual festival taking place from 1-7 November, that engages people from across the UK with their UK Parliament, explores what it means to them and empowers them to get involved.

This year marks ten years of UK Parliament Week. It is a great opportunity to be part of a thriving democracy and look ahead to the next 10 years, thinking about what issues are important to you and how you can work with UK Parliament to bring about change.

Community groups, local organisations and schools representing every constituency across the United Kingdom have already signed up to be part of the conversation.

The Portsmouth South MP has written to all schools in the constituency and is hosting a ‘Q&A with your MP’ for young people on Friday 6 November to round off the week of activities.

Promoting the week, Stephen Morgan MP said:   

As MP for my home city, I welcome the involvement of people in Portsmouth during UK Parliament Week 2020.  

I am especially determined to ensure that our voters and citizens of tomorrow understand how vital their participation is in our democracy, and I’m excited to see so many organisations and local groups taking part.” 

Last year, over 1.2 million people took part in UK Parliament week in every nation and region of the UK, alongside countries all over the world.

David Clark, Head of Education and Engagement at UK Parliament, said:

There are many exciting activities taking place for this year’s UK Parliament Week, including those happening inPortsmouth South

Organisations, local community groupsand schoolsacross Portsmouth havea chance to get empowered and have their say on issues they care about the most. Change starts with you and UK ParliamentWeekis a great way tolearn how you can make a difference.” 

 

 

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Stephen Morgan votes to end holiday hunger whilst neighbouring MPs vote against

Responding to the Government voting down Labour’s motion in the House of Commons to extend free school meals during holidays for children in need, Stephen Morgan MP has called for Tory MPs to ‘reflect again’ after they voted against the measure to support the most vulnerable in society, unlike the city MP who voted in support of the plan.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“For me, politics is about making sure people have a roof over their head, families have food on the table and that they know support for their children is there when they need it.
Yesterday, those who voted with the government, denied families and their children of that. Here in Portsmouth, that’s over seven thousand children, and rising.
I will continue to hold the government to account on this, but I really urge other MPs in our region who voted otherwise to seriously reflect again on what the most vulnerable in our communities need”.
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Stephen Morgan MP backs national campaign ‘Love our Colleges’ week

Stephen Morgan MP has backed national campaign ‘Love our Colleges’ and has urged the people of Portsmouth to recognise and celebrate the value that they bring to education and the wider community.

Colleges Week 2020 is the third colleges week celebration since the launch of the #LoveOurColleges campaign in 2018.

Association of Colleges (AoC) represents nearly 93% of the 2381 further education and sixth form colleges in England, and according to Ofsted, 82% of colleges across the country have been graded as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ (August 2019).

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“I’m delighted to be backing this campaign and I urge all of the people of Portsmouth to both recognise and celebrate the tremendous value our colleges bring.

In the fallout of the coronavirus crisis, people equipped with the skills acquired from attending our colleges will be of critical importance to our economic recovery.

I want to thank all the teachers and additional support staff for their work in supporting our local students.”

Mr Morgan has been a vocal supporter of the work and value that colleges bring to the City of Portsmouth, and this month met with UTC Portsmouth (specialising in engineering) and Portsmouth College last month, to find out more about their recent work and the challenges they are facing.

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City MP calls on the Government to fund free school meals throughout the holiday

Stephen Morgan MP has called on the government to extend free school meals in the school holidays, including the upcoming October half term and Christmas, as part of a Labour campaign to ensure that no child goes hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour had previously given Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak 72 hours to change their position and provide this support. With the deadline expired, the Party is forcing a Commons vote on the issue.

In Portsmouth alone over 6,500 children are at risk of going hungry over the holidays as the government withdraws support for the provision of free school meals.

The October half term comes as millions of families face a furlough cliff-edge that could see jobs across the country at risk, at the same time as millions of families face tighter restrictions.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Millions of families face the prospect of losing their livelihoods because the government has lost control of the virus.

It’s sink-or-swim plans for support could leave more than one million children at risk of going hungry over the school holidays, including many here in Portsmouth.

Now is the time to act. I have taken a range of actions on this and will continue to hold the government to account on this issue.”

 

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Black History Month: Portsmouth South MP calls for Black History to be added to the curriculum all year round

Following action taken earlier this year by the Portsmouth South representative, Stephen Morgan MP has today urged the government again to include Black History in the school curriculum all year round.

As part of efforts to mark Black History Month in the House of Commons, Members from across the House highlighted issues of racism and discrimination and called on the government to do more during a backbench debate.

A debate in recognition of Black History Month has not taken place in the House of Commons for five years. Over the past few months issues of race and discrimination have been at the forefront of public opinion following multiple Black Lives Matter demonstrations which took place in every region in England throughout June and July.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Much more needs to be done to tackle racism and discrimination in society, and I am committed to actively working with others to end injustice and inequality affecting communities in Portsmouth.

This year we have seen Black, Asian and minority ethnic people disproportionately affected by Covid-19 death rates and the economic crisis.

Teaching Black British history in schools would be an important step towards ending the structural racism that holds people back and creating a society where everyone’s contributions are recognised and celebrated. I made that point to the Minister earlier this year and regrettably Government has not taken this issue seriously.

Whilst I welcome the backbench debate today on tackling racism and discrimination, it is high time Ministers hear our concerns and take action”.

Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Marsha De Cordova MP added:

“In the context of a growing Black Lives Matter movement that is highlighting racial injustices across the globe, Black history must be taught all year round, as part of a truly diverse school curriculum that includes and inspires all young people from all backgrounds.

Black history is British history and it’s a disgrace that the Government won’t even review the curriculum to get this right.”