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Portsmouth MP calls on government to reassess plans to scrap the vast majority of BTEC qualifications

Stephen Morgan MP has joined calls urging the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi to make an “early reassessment” of the Department for Education’s plan to remove funding for the vast majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECs.

It comes as the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign continues to grow, a coalition of 21 organisations that represent and support students and staff in schools, colleges and universities.

In July, the Department confirmed plans to introduce a twin-track system of A levels and T levels (a new suite of technical qualifications), where most young people pursue one of these qualifications at the age of 16. As a result, funding for most BTEC qualifications will be removed.

Under current proposals, larger BTEC qualifications (equivalent in size to 2 or 3 A levels) will be scrapped if the government deems they “overlap” with A levels or T levels. But the MPs and peers call for the option to study BTECs to be retained as they “are a different type of qualification that provide a different type of educational experience – one that combines the development of skills with academic learning”.

Recent data for participation in education, training and employment in England (end of 2019) shows that 864,304 16 to 18 year olds are studying at Level 3. The majority (55%) are studying A levels only, 19% are studying applied general qualifications such as BTECs (in some cases alongside A levels) and 4% are studying technical qualifications. Because of recent changes to Department for Education performance tables, 22% of students are categorised as studying an ‘Other Level 3’ course

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

“The removal of BTECs represents a hammer blow for social mobility, the skills gap and the economy. BTECs serve a different purpose and should co-exist in the qualifications landscape.”

During Love our Colleges Week, it’s really important we underline the importance of and value BTECs bring to education.

“Speaking to constituents, I know how critical these qualifications can be to ensure students have the knowledge and skills they need for the future.

Government must look again and Protect Student Choice.”

 

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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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Portsmouth MP steps in to progress Fratton Park infrastructure plans in meeting with PFC and Network Rail

Stephen Morgan MP has stepped up his continued efforts to support development proposals at Fratton Park and improve access to the stadium by bringing together representatives of Portsmouth Football Club and Network Rail.

Portsmouth Football Club said in June this year that the club was “in dialogue with local government about much needed infrastructure improvements in the local vicinity to facilitate access to the stadium along the key transportation routes to Fratton Park.”

The city MP has been calling for some time for the city council to play an active part in supporting the club to get its development plans off the ground, at a time when government is making money available for regeneration.

In a summit set up this week, representatives of Network Rail and Portsmouth Football Club met with the Portsmouth MP at Fratton station for a meeting, which included a walk around the site to better understand access challenges from the station on match days and wider congestion issues.

The group agreed a set of ideas and took away a number of actions to improve links to the stadium, as well as wider future rail investment plans for Portsmouth and the region.

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

“For me, our club’s success is our city’s success and as we recover from this crisis it’s vital we see the investment that’s needed to improve connectivity and access to Fratton Park, which will be critical for securing the city’s future prosperity.

“I was glad to facilitate discussions between the club and Network Rail and I was encouraged to see some progress made on this issue which has been stalling for some time now.

“I will continue to do all I can to support the club’s ambitions for this project and will be urging the city council to do so too to help make these plans a reality for fans.”

Andrew Cullen, Chief Executive of Portsmouth Football Club, added,

“We are extremely grateful for both the keen interest and support that Stephen Morgan MP continues to invest in the proposals for the future development of Fratton Park and the associated impact on local transport and infrastructure.

“We look forward to further discussions with all the various stakeholders to shape and deliver an exciting and inspiring future, both for the football club and the city of Portsmouth.”

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Portsmouth MP votes against ‘discriminatory’ Voter ID policy and calls for it to be ‘urgently abolished’

Stephen Morgan MP has voted against the government’s ‘discriminatory’ Election Bill and has called for it to be ‘urgently abolished’.

The Bill, if passed, would require voters to present photo ID to vote at polling stations in future elections.

The Official Opposition has called on the government to urgently rethink the policy, raising concerns that it would reverse decades of democratic progress and threaten to bar millions of people from exercising their democratic right to vote.

Since this policy was first announced in December 2016, the Government has received multiple warnings from charities, civil society figures and campaign groups that mandatory voter ID – if rolled out nationally – could pull up the drawbridge for millions of voters.

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

“Voter ID is a total waste of taxpayers’ money. The policy is set to cost millions of pounds at every election. 

“Voting is safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy.

“Millions of people lack photo ID in this country – in particular the elderly, low income and Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters. The Conservatives are reversing decades of democratic progress and urgently need to rethink this pointless policy.

“That’s why I voted against the Bill last night and will continue to hold the government to account on this.”

 

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Portsmouth MP praises ‘fantastic creativity’ of new indoor skatepark to be converted from disused supermarket

Stephen Morgan MP has praised the ‘fantastic creativity’ of a new project that will see the old Sainsbury’s supermarket on Commercial Road converted into an indoor skatepark.

The long-term future of the Undercover Skatepark Project will be decided by Portsmouth City Council, which in the meantime has granted the project a temporary licence to use the site.

Plans include an indoor half pipe, as well as facilities for community arts and other wheeled sports.

Visiting the site, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said,

“It’s fantastic to see the creativity used here to breathe fresh life back into a large space which would have otherwise gone unused for some time.

“This will be a brilliant facility for our city which will help to support our local economic recovery from this crisis, by driving more people back to the high-street, whilst also tackling anti-social behaviour by providing a new safe haven for younger people.

“I want to see more local projects like this supported if we are to deliver Portsmouth’s cultural and economic recovery.”

Jacob Skinner, one of the organisers behind the project, added,

“It was great to have Stephen come visit our site.  Having the backing of our local MP is important to the project, it also reaffirms the importance of what we are doing. 

“We are building a wheeled sports, leisure and creative facility for the city so it’s nice to know we have it’s support.  I look forward to seeing him have a roll around when we open!”

Undercover Skatepark’s team of about 20 volunteers hope to have the indoor park operational by the end of the year.

You can donate to the project via its fundraising page here: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/undercover-skatepark-project

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‘Portsmouth’s GCSE students deserve huge credit, but they’ve been let down’ – local MP during results day visit

Stephen Morgan MP congratulated local GCSE students during a visit to ARK Charter Academy on Thursday for ‘overcoming huge obstacles’, despite disruption to their learning, after multiple lockdowns over the past 18 months.

The Portsmouth MP was speaking to students, parents and staff at the city school, as results were collected, to learn more about the challenges they have faced over the last year and a half and what more can be done to improve education in Portsmouth.

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.

Meanwhile, Labour’s £15 billion Child Recovery plan would invest £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, commented,

“GCSE students across Portsmouth deserve enormous credit for their achievements and hard work over the last year and a half, despite the challenges they faced only made worse by this government’s actions.

“From delaying a circuit breaker that led to more hours of lost learning, to a ‘catch-up plan’ that doesn’t even touch the sides, Portsmouth’s students, parents and teachers have been left by the wayside by this government.

“I’m incredibly proud of the determination and achievements of Portsmouth’s students this year, as I have heard first-hand today, but to recover from this pandemic and challenging period, this generation needs far more support from Government.”

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City MP: Portsmouth must harness the success of the Olympics to deliver the next generation of talent

Stephen Morgan MP wants to ensure Portsmouth and the country harnesses the success of Tokyo 2020 to deliver the next generation of Olympic talent from the local grassroots level.

It comes following a visit to Portsmouth Northsea Swimming Club, on training at the Mountbatten Centre, which since 1927 has been delivering swimming courses and training for all abilities, from beginners to national level competitive swimmers.

The club is one of the leading swimming clubs in the UK and has produced a number of Olympic swimmers, including Katy Sexton, Gemma Spofforth and Paralympic athlete Lauren Steadman.

Its objective is to deliver swimming provision for the community and to return the club to the topflight of national swimming clubs.

Earlier this year, the club raised over £25k through crowd funding, grants and support from local businesses and individuals, which will be used to plug the gap in its finances caused by the lockdowns.

Meanwhile, with the action underway at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, and following the gold medal win for Team GB’s Adam Peaty in in the Men’s 100m Breaststroke, and Tom Daley and Matty Lee in the Men’s Synchronised 10m Platform, the Portsmouth South MP is hoping the Olympics will leave local people #InspiredToTry swimming.

Following the visit, Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“I am really proud of the journey Portsmouth Northsea Swimming Club has been on from humble beginnings in a local pub, to a club that caters for swimmers at all levels.

“It’s really encouraging to learn how our community has come together to keep this fantastic asset going during lockdown despite the challenges of the pandemic, and to see first-hand the difference this support makes.

“Team GB have had an amazing games in the pool inspiring a new generation of swimmers. This Olympics legacy must include creating a country that puts health, physical and mental, first.

“I hope the excitement of Tokyo 2020 will provide the motivation for many Portsmouth people to be ‘Inspired To Try’ swimming which brings so many health benefits”.

Swim England has forecasted a 40% reduction in the number of available swimming facilities by the end of the decade. This would see over three million people unable to access their sports.

The city MP has vowed to challenge Government and other decision-makers over this.

 

 

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City MP works alongside support charity helping Portsmouth families ‘achieve their potential’

Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan has spent the day working alongside frontline family support charity Home-Start to see the difference they are making to parents and children.

The independent family support charity offers trained volunteer support to parents experiencing postnatal depression, isolation, illness, bereavement or family breakdown.

Established in 1992, it has supported thousands of families across the city.

The Portsmouth South representative met parents and volunteers working with the service to hear about the support being provided and the positive impact it has had on their family life.

One family from Somerstown had benefited from the group’s ‘Big Hopes Big Future’ programme, which works with children in the year before they start school. A trained volunteer is matched with  the family and visits them for 12 week, offering support to develop the child’s key skills and routines to help children settle in to their new school.

Jo Toms, Operations Manager, Home-Start Portsmouth:

“After a year like no other, we are very grateful to Stephen Morgan who shadowed our work and met with families, volunteers, and staff of Home-Start Portsmouth, highlighting how the pandemic has had an impact on parents and young children.

“It’s good for parents to feel listened to and share their experiences and stories of the last year.

“I am incredibly proud of our service, the support we offer to Portsmouth families, the staff team but most of all our volunteers who have continued to offer face to face visits, doorstep drops, telephone calls, texts and Zoom calls throughout.

“We have been there for families and it was important to showcase what our volunteers do and the difference they make.”

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“Home-Start have been a vital frontline service for local families during a period of unprecedented challenges for our City.  

“The pandemic has unfortunately meant isolation, bereavement and loss of income and have become increasingly common, but Home-Start helps lift up children and parents so they can achieve their potential.

“It was a privilege to work alongside their dedicated volunteers today and see first-hand the positive impact their invaluable work is making to homes in our city.”

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Support for young people ‘vital’ for city’s recovery as local MP tours new hub to boost youth employment

Stephen Morgan MP has underlined the importance of young people getting the support they need to find their route to employment as the city begins its economic recovery.

It comes following the Portsmouth MP’s visit to a new hub in the city that has been launched to directly support young people aged 16-24 on Universal Credit to find work.

My Future in Portsmouth Youth Hub is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), paying for 3 full time staff through Portsmouth City Council and allocating 2 part-time DWP Work Coaches.

The age groups are particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of the pandemic, with over 1,900 young people included, representing 19% of Universal Credit claimants. This level has been consistent since the middle of last year and compares to pre-Covid averages of around 720 young people.

The hub is a ‘one-stop service’ that helps job seekers aged between 16 and 24 to find work, by:

• Helping people into work (CV updating, job searching, writing applications and cover letters and preparing for interviews)
• Confidence building
• Health and wellbeing
• Housing
• Managing debt
• Accessing benefits
• Mental health support
• Health and wellbeing advice
• Discussing options, including: Kickstart, apprenticeships, traineeships, adult education and paid employment.

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

“Young people have been amongst the worst affected by the pandemic, so I’m really glad to see authorities working together to help provide the support they need to secure their futures and our city’s recovery.

“My Future in Portsmouth Youth Hub will provide a really important service for local young people to find the work they need, many of whom will be looking to get their first job in tough circumstances, so my thanks to those in Portsmouth who have helped to put this into action.”

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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.