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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.”

 

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City MP backs ‘Walk to School Week’ campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has backed national campaign ‘Walk to School Week’, organised by UK charity Living Streets. 

The campaign aims to encourage families to try healthier and greener ways to travel to school. Starting today, school children across the UK will be taking part in a safe and socially distanced walk to school with other students and parents.

According to the charity, 70 per cent of children walked to school a generation ago, now it is less than half.

The government has set a target in its Cycling to Walking Investment Strategy to get 55% of primary school pupils walking to school by 2025, to tackle this issue.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“I’m delighted to support this fantastic initiative to encourage children and parents to take part in a safe and socially distanced walk to school, and I urge our local schools to take part in this too.”

Many of us have spent more time indoors recently, so I’m really proud to support this campaign that offers both a greener option, and a way for both students and parents to get the fresh air and exercise they need to support their mental wellbeing through this difficult period.”

The Chief Executive of Living Streets, Mary Creagh, added,

“Walking to school is a fun and easy way for to get active. We need safer streets so more families have confidence to walk to school.”

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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.