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Portsmouth MP demands answers from Education Secretary on childcare funding

Stephen Morgan MP pushed the Education Ministerial team in the House of Commons today to take action on funding for early years and childcare providers across the country.

 

It comes as many early years providers in the UK face financial uncertainty at the moment due to national Covid-19 restrictions, with the local MP writing last week to over 40 early years and childcare providers across his constituency.

 

The parliamentary representative wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP at the beginning of the month outlining his priorities for local education in Portsmouth, including his concerns about the financial pressures nurseries are currently facing.

 

According to a recent report from Coram, 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.

 

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

 

“Nurseries are not just crucial for families; they are a vital part of our economy.

 

“The government urgently needs to set out its strategy for early years providers, as well as provide certainty on future funding.

 

“Without this, Government risks losing essential childcare places in less well-off communities as a result of the pandemic and damages the prospects of our economic recovery.

 

“Last week I wrote to over 40 local nurseries, early years and childcare providers to hear their views and ideas. This week I am putting my words into action by raising their concerns in Parliament. I will continue to push the government to act on this important sector for our community.”

Mr Morgan has submitted a range of parliamentary questions and lobbied Government on this issue. He is committed to continuing to liaise with the range of local childcare providers to understand and speak up for the sector.

 

 

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Stephen Morgan MP calls on the Government to support families during lockdown

Today, Stephen Morgan MP, has demanded the government give families the support they need while schools and colleges are closed to most pupils.

This follows news that the government will not be providing Free School Meals funding during February half-term, leaving 6,580 children in Portsmouth at risk of going hungry.

Labour is calling on the government to guarantee that all eligible children receive the full value of free school meals during this school year, including during all holidays.

To enable this, the government should set-up cash payments so parents can choose the spend the £15 free school meal funding on the food and supplies that are right for their children.

Children’s education is being further put at risk by the government’s failure to provide the laptops and digital access needed for remote learning. Two weeks into lockdown, 97,800 of the government’s promised laptops still have not been delivered to children across the south east.

Labour will call a vote in Parliament on Monday to ask the government to guarantee that all eligible children are getting the full value of free school meals support, including during school holidays, and have the digital access they need to learn remotely.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The government has had no plan to support children’s education, wellbeing or futures during this pandemic.

“Cutting free school meals support and leaving children without the equipment to learn remotely in our city is simply unacceptable.

 “I will not stand by and let families be the victims of the government’s incompetence. Boris Johnson and his MPs must now do the right thing and vote to support Labour’s proposals on Monday.”

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Revealed: The striking similarities between shameful meal parcels and Government guidance

Labour today reveals that the Government’s own guidance on what should be in food parcels is strikingly similar to images circulating on social media in recent days – with less than a 50p daily difference.

It comes as Stephen Morgan MP has stepped up pressure for the Government to ensure families are getting the full value of Free School Meals support here in Portsmouth.

Ministers have described images circulating in recent days as “completely unacceptable.” The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told the Education Select Committee that “it will not be tolerated we will not live with that.” But research from Labour suggests that the packages aren’t as far removed from Government guidance as ministers are suggesting.

Guidance written by the Department for Education and pointed to from gov.uk suggests “general principles for putting together” parcels. And the similarities between them and the images circulating are striking.

The key items missing are two ‘tins of meat’, a litre of milk and a tin of sweetcorn. A leading UK supermarket prices this at about 47p of food a day. This doesn’t include items that are not in the guidance but in the picture, such as Soreen and pasta.

Widely shared image on social media Government guidance
1 x loaf of bread 1 x loaf of bread
2 x potatoes 2 x potatoes
1 x tomato 3 x tomatoes
5 x portions of fruit 5 x portions of fruit
? x cheese portions 3 x cheese portions
1 x tin of baked beans 1 x tin of baked beans
3 x yoghurts 3 x individual serving yoghurt pots
1 x bag of pasta 1 x cucumber
2 x packets Soreen 1 x tin sweetcorn
2 x carrots 1 x bottle milk
2 x tin of meat

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

“The images that have been circulating on social media are shameful and have shocked many constituents.

“But these revelations about the Government’s own guidance as we have learnt today means that ministers’ newfound concern rings hollow. A couple of tins and a bottle of milk isn’t the difference between acceptable or unacceptable.

“I will continue to put pressure on Government to act. Many in our city were already struggling to make ends meet before this pandemic. This crisis has made life for them even harder. Portsmouth families deserve better from Ministers”.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years Minister, added:

“The Government’s response has yet again been far too slow, with national food vouchers only becoming available from next week – two weeks after schools moved to remote learning.

“Children are going hungry now – this cannot wait.”

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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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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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City MP praises local heroes at this year’s Inspiring Fratton Awards

Stephen Morgan MP praised this year’s winners of the Inspiring Fratton Awards, a scheme set up by the locally born parliamentary representative and Fratton Big Local.

The local awards aim to recognise members of the Fratton community that have a long-running connection with the ward that have gone above and beyond to enrich the local area.

The awards feature a variety of categories ranging from Sport and Art to Best Café and Educational Achievement and seek to showcase a cross-section of skill sets on offer in the area.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“I want to thank all of this year’s winners for their incredible work during what has been an immensely challenging year.

Despite the difficulties we have faced in 2020, these local heroes have still looked to find ways to support and inspire others within our community.

As someone who is Fratton born and raised, I am particularly pleased to see their contribution to the wider city being recognised.”

With Portsmouth currently under Tier 2 restrictions, the awards ceremony took place safely in much fewer numbers this year at St Mary’s Church last night and was livestreamed online, where Father Bob and the Portsmouth South representative announced the winners.

Stephen Morgan MP, added:

“Even with public health restrictions in place, I’m really pleased local residents were able to join Father Bob and I once again to celebrate the achievements of the people of Fratton.

Even if it was via video link, I’m glad and very grateful to organisers and St Mary’s Church who found ways for us to be together and connect with the Fratton community.

Congratulations to all the winners. Everyone in Fratton is so proud of you.”

This is the second year the awards ceremony has taken place, with last year’s Inspiring Fratton Awards thought to have been a great success.

Congratulations to the 2020 winners who are:

  • Contribution to creativity in Fratton (over 18s) – Anita Godson
  • Contribution to creativity in Fratton (under 18s) – Hannah Clark
  • Contribution to Education in Fratton ( over 18s) – Sarah Mitas
  • Contribution to Education in Fratton (under 18s) – Lacie Thornton
  • Contribution to Sport in Fratton (over 18s) – Jen Stoneham
  • Contribution to Sport in Fratton (under 18s) – Bruno Hoxha
  • Contribution to volunteering in Fratton (over 18s) – Billy Shannon
  • Contribution to Volunteering in Fratton (under 18s) – Kayla Thornton
  • Best Cafe/Take Away – Chit Chat collected by Dave Harding
  • Best Trader/Business – MAKE collected by Emma Lennox
  • Contribution to community life in Fratton in extraordinary times (over 18s) – Rosie Francis
  • Contribution to community life in Fratton in extraordinary times (under 18s) – Alex Moles

Awards were designed and produced by Etch in Fratton and certificates designed by UK Flyers based at Victory Business Centre also in the local area. Nominations came from local people, community groups and schools in the ward.

 

 

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Get in involved with PITC’s ‘Blue Kitchen’

Blue Kitchen is a fantastic local initiative by Pompey in the Community (PITC) that has brought brilliant innovative thinking to help bring our community together this year – despite the restrictions.

Even with the challenges faced by many organisations across our city, PITC stuck at it and continued to find new ways to help engage with our young people stuck at home, whilst supporting the development of an essential life skill.

In partnership with others, they were able to get 60 meals a day to be delivered to those who needed it most during lockdown in the summer.

Young people in Portsmouth are encouraged to get involved and have a go themselves using the recipe below. You can see Stephen having a go at the recipe here.

Chicken Curry   

Ingredients 

2 chicken breasts

1 pepper

1 onion

2 garlic cloves  – crushed or finely chopped

1 tomato

Salt and pepper

Oil

Akash curry powder (or curry powder of your choice)

Rice or flatbreads as required

Instructions 

  1. Cut the onion, peppers and tomato into large chunks, all of a similar size
  2. Cut the chicken into strips
  3. Add 2 tsps of oil to your pan and put it on a high heat. When the oil is nice and hot add your chicken and cook until it is golden brown and cooked all the way through
  4. Take the chicken out of the pan and place to one side
  5. Add 4 tsps of oil to a pan and when hot, add your garlic, onions and peppers and cook until soft.
  6. Add your tomato and 2 tsps of curry powder and turn the heat down to low.
  7. Add your chicken back to the pan and mix so everything is completely coated.
  8. Serve with rice or a naan bread of your choice
  9. Enjoy!
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City MP’s Christmas card competition celebrates local heroes

Stephen Morgan MP is calling on all school aged children in his constituency to enter his 2020 Christmas card competition.

Writing to all schools in Portsmouth South, and with a plug for all children to get involved on BBC Radio Solent recently, the theme of the popular competition is ‘Our Local Heroes at Christmas’.

Mr Morgan hopes, after such a tough year, the competition will help spread some much-needed cheer across the local community as well as help young people understand the contribution made to Portsmouth of those working on the frontline in 2020.

Stephen Morgan MP commented:

“This year has been a particularly difficult one for so many people both in our city and across the country.

I hope by acknowledging some of our local heroes we can continue to share our gratitude to those people who have gone above and beyond to make Portsmouth a better place to be.”

The winning entry is to feature as the design for Stephen’s official Christmas card. The card will be sent to hundreds of individuals and organisations across the constituency and country in December.

The city MP added:

“The winning design will be professionally printed and sent to people I work closely with to make Portsmouth a better place for everyone.

The competition is always very popular and I can’t wait to see the designs from so many local young people”.

How can young people take part? 

The competition is open to all school aged pupils living or attending school in Portsmouth South. The theme is ‘Our Local Heroes at Christmas’ and designs can either be landscape or portrait.

Entries should be delivered to Stephen’s constituency office at 72 Albert Road, Southsea, PO5 2SL. The closing date for entries is Monday 23 November 2020 (deadline extended). Entries should include the child’s full name, age and year group, and school. 

If you have any questions about the competition, please get in touch with Stephen by emailing stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk

 

 

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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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Urgent action is needed to protect nurseries and childminders says Portsmouth MP

Responding to a survey by the Early Years Alliance revealing that one in six nurseries may not survive the winter due to continued impact of Covid-19, Stephen Morgan MP has said ‘government must take urgent action to protect nurseries and childminders’

The survey has revealed that now is a critical moment for the early years sector. With demand for places still significantly below what would typically be expected, and no sign of things returning to normal any time soon, many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are reaching the point of no return.

On the findings, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Today we learn that the collapse of this important sector is imminent in many parts of the country at a time when families enter the toughest winter for a generation. As ever, this will hit the most deprived communities hardest.

Urgent action is needed by the government to save the nurseries and childminders that working parents and children rely on, including those here in Portsmouth.

It is now or never to save the childcare sector, and it has to be now for the sake of our city’s economy.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said:

“Our survey shows that it is those early years settings providing vital care and education to families in the most deprived areas – who are already bearing the brunt of the impact of the pandemic – that are most at risk.

There is absolutely no excuse for the government’s continued indifference towards the early years sector. It claims that children’s access to education during the pandemic is a top priority, and yet it is apparently perfectly happy to see thousands of early education providers fall by the wayside.

It argues that safeguarding the economy is critical to the country’s recovery, but chooses to ignore the fact that there can be no recovery without a functioning early years sector providing the quality care that parents and families need”. 

Quality early years provision is a central part of our social infrastructure. Labour agrees that it is not too late for the government to show that it recognises the value of the sector – both to the young children who benefit from quality early education, and the parents, and particularly mothers, who benefit from accessible care.

The Portsmouth South MP has vowed to continue to lobby for investment in the sector to safeguard the many thousands of providers in desperate need of support.