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Shadow Schools Minister slams government for rising school energy bills

Stephen Morgan MP raised school leaders’ concerns with Ministers today, during Education questions in the House of Commons, on the impact ‘skyrocketing energy bills’ are having on school budgets.

According to analysis of the latest data by the House of Commons library, average energy prices for schools have nearly doubled, rising by 83% in the first quarter of this year compared to 2020/21 levels.

It comes as the cost of living crisis is increasingly placing pressure on schools’ and families’ budgets, with inflation currently at 9.1%, the highest rate for 40 years.

Meanwhile, government recently announced it would only be raising funding for infant school meals by just 7p per meal.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“School budgets are already being stretched, but Ministers are still failing to get a grip of the spiralling energy prices threatening our children’s education.

“Average school energy bills have almost doubled compared to last year, with schools spending an estimated £1bn on energy, putting yet more pressure on budgets to even just keep the lights on.

“Despite this, government failed once again today to commit to providing the support schools desperately need.

“Labour would build a Britain where children come first, but the Tories are standing by as Portsmouth children lose out.”


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City MP and Shadow Minister call for urgent action to tackle looming crisis in foster care

Labour has called for urgent action act to tackle a looming crisis in the number of foster carers, and ensure all children can have a stable, loving home.

Data shows the number of current foster carers deregistering is increasing faster than the number of new families, prompting calls for urgent action to improve recruitment and retention. Last year, the South-East saw a decline of 310 foster carers registered with local authorities.

This comes as the number of looked after children continues to grow, increasing 26 per cent in Portsmouth since 2012, with a 21 per cent increase nationwide. This is rapidly outpacing the number of new foster homes which has increased just 6 per cent since 2012.

More than a decade of Conservative government has stripped away vital early-help services which worked to prevent children unnecessarily entering care. At the same time, almost half of children’s services in England are now rated by Ofsted as inadequate or needing improvement, holding back the wraparound support available for foster families.

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, Helen Hayes MP, visited Portsmouth with Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Schools Minister Stephen Morgan to meet with foster carers and see the Fostering Network’s Mockingbird service, which brings foster families together to support each other. The service was highlighted as an example of good practice in the recently published Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.

Helen Hayes MP, Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years Minister, said:

“Foster families are crucial to ensuring every child has a stable, loving home, but across the country services are at breaking point after a decade of Conservative neglect.”

“Too often bureaucracy puts off potential foster carers whilst a lack of support means many families are choosing to deregister.  Today, I’ve seen the brilliant Mockingbird service which a really effective example of ways in which additional support can be provided to foster families to help them sustain their vital work.

“Labour in government transformed support for children and families, ensuring all young people were supported to thrive. Labour will put children first once again.”

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Schools Minister, said:

“Twelve years of Conservative government has created a crisis in foster care. The number of looked after children in our City has grown faster than in the rest of the country, yet the number of foster families in the region is shrinking.

“The Mockingbird service in Portsmouth offers outstanding support to both children and foster families, facilitating stable and loving homes across our City.

“The next Labour government will put children at the heart of our vision for a successful and prosperous Britain.”

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Portsmouth MP hosts ‘National Education Museum’ in Parliament after reaching funding milestone to open in city  

Stephen Morgan MP has urged local residents to get behind a local project to establish a National Education Museum in Portsmouth, after hosting its leaders and supporters at an event in Parliament this week.

The initiative aims to set up the country’s only museum dedicated to education, celebrating how we acquire awareness and understanding of our world, of ourselves, of our communities and of our society.

Its trustees include notable education figures from across the local area, including the City MP, who now holds the role of Shadow Schools Minister and is a former local school governor of Arundel Court and Priory.

The event in Westminster, titled ‘Halfway there’, celebrated the organisation’s achievement in passing the halfway mark of its overall funding target of £250,000.

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

“As Portsmouth’s voice in Parliament and in my role as Shadow Schools Minister, I fully recognise the enormous benefits of opening the nation’s only museum solely dedicated to education in Portsmouth, not least adding to the cultural offering it prides itself with.

“A National Education Museum will be an important celebration of the power education has to change lives. Education is limitless, so it’s vital we have an institution that tells its story of progress for future generations.

“As a Trustee of the National Education Museum, I was delighted to host Wednesday night’s event in Parliament to mark the project’s success in reaching the halfway point of its overall funding target of £250,000. If you are able to, I strongly encourage others to lend your support and make this fantastic initiative become a reality.”

Further information about the National Education Museum and how to support the project, can be found via its website.

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Shadow Schools Minister condemns Tory inaction as South East afterschool club costs soar by over £570

Stephen Morgan MP has condemned Tory Ministers’ inaction ahead of a debate in the House of Commons today, as the cost of South East afterschool clubs has soared by £573.42 since 2010.

Nationally, the average family is spending more on afterschool clubs than on their weekly food shop.

Despite pleas from parents to prioritise children’s wellbeing, the government has left parents to struggle with steeply rising prices, leaving children at risk of missing out.

In a debate in Parliament this afternoon, the City MP will lead the Official Opposition in its push for the government to match Labour’s own recovery plan which commits to breakfast and afterschool clubs for all, supporting parents struggling to balance rising bills and prioritising children’s learning.

This echoes a trial of the extended school day by the Welsh Labour government which has seen children undertaking a range of new activities at the end of the school day, with teachers reporting this has given pupils more confidence in their day-to-day learning.

It comes as the Shadow Schools Minister recently highlighted that every secondary school pupil will have left school by the time the government delivers its promise of 100 million hours of post-covid tutoring.

During the debate, the Portsmouth MP will underline that whilst families face rising energy prices and increasing food bills, childcare costs are also soaring and putting further pressure on parents.

Despite this, government is ‘knowingly underfunding the childcare sector in England’, forcing many parents to work less or stop working altogether.

Labour has said it would tackle the costs families are facing by investing in childcare places for young children on free school meals, before and after school clubs and put money back in families’ pockets with a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to take £600 off families’ energy bills and halting the Tory’s tax rise.

This would be paid for through the money the government had already allocated for the Covid response and recovery.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, said:

“Portsmouth’s parents are battling rising bills, yet the Conservatives have failed to take any action to tackle booming childcare price rises.

“Families in our city are paying over £570 more a year while the government faffs around and delays getting help to people who are struggling.

“Labour would be supporting parents and children right now with before and afterschool clubs for all.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Shadow Education Secretary, also said:

“The Conservatives risk sacrificing children’s futures in their utter failure to deliver a proper recovery plan for our children’s learning and wellbeing.

“Labour has been clear for months – we would be delivering the ambitious recovery plan that children need, want and deserve, with breakfast and afterschool clubs for every child.

“As parents battle rising costs of living, soaring childcare costs make life ever harder for families. Tory inaction is leaving children to be priced out of opportunity.”

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Shadow Schools Minister blasts Ministers for nation’s ‘crumbling’ schools

Stephen Morgan MP grilled Ministers during departmental questions in the House of Commons today over the number of English schools that have fallen into a state of disrepair.

In 2019 it was revealed that, according to the government’s own data, almost 4,000 schools across the country were judged by surveyors to be in need of immediate restoration work, and many more were found not to have the paperwork required by law, including electrical test certificates, fire risk assessments or asbestos management plans.

Over two years on, the government believes some school buildings are now a ‘risk to life’, according to internal government documents leaked to the Observer.

Despite this, the Chancellor has so far refused to provide the £13bn needed for rebuilding projects.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“The reality is the school estate is crumbling after 12 years of Tory negligence.

“Ministers have known the state our schools are in, but instead of tackling the problem, they have opted to sit on their hands and let our children’s places of learning become a risk to life.

“The Minster’s non-answer today demonstrates he would prefer to stick his head in the sand, rather than tackle this unsustainable problem head-on.

“This is a far cry from what Portsmouth’s and the country’s children deserve. Labour is ambition for our children and would deliver the first-class education they need to be ready for work and ready for life.”

The City MP has previously raised concerns in Westminster about the state of school sites in Portsmouth and across England, including during a Westminster Hall debate earlier this year.

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Shadow Schools Minister: Government fails to deliver for Portsmouth’s children

Stephen Morgan MP has warned that the government is failing to deliver for children in Portsmouth with ‘no plan, no ambition and no vision’ for their learning or futures, as the government’s proposed Schools Bill ‘falls short’.

The government’s proposed Schools Bill, announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech did not include a plan to drive-up standards in the classroom or turn around opportunities for over 200,000 children who live in areas with no good or outstanding schools.

In his statement on the Queen’s Speech Boris Johnson failed to mention children, suggesting his government’s priorities lie elsewhere.

Following publication of their strategy for schools, the government last month admitted that most schools already hit their new target for the length of the school day, while the Prime Minister has previously admitted that the evidence for lengthening the school day was “not as good as it could have been”.

In September, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer set out Labour’s determination to drive-up standards for all schools with the most ambitious school improvement programme for a generation. Labour’s plan would include getting 6,500 new teachers into our schools, alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills in every child’s learning so young people leave education ready for work and ready for life, equipped with the skills they need for the future.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Once again we have a smoke and mirrors announcement from a Conservative government that has simply run out of ideas. 

“Their proposed Schools Bill is looking backwards showing no plan, no ambition and no vision for Portsmouth’s and the country’s children.

“Labour is focused on making a difference for children in the classroom and throughout their lives. We would be delivering the trained staff our schools need because the success of teachers enables the success of our children.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary said:

“After two years of unprecedented chaos and disruption to children’s education, the Conservatives are obsessing over structures instead of improving children’s experience in the classroom.

“Their Bill contains no plan to support children’s pandemic recovery. No plan to improve teaching and tackle the exodus of school staff from our classrooms. No plan to ensure more young people gain essential qualifications. No plan to give children the broad education that young people, parents and employers want to see. No plan, no ambition, no vision for our children.

“Labour has been listening to parents, pupils and school staff. We would be delivering our ambitious Children’s Recovery Plan and getting on with delivering plans for 6,500 new teachers filling skills gaps across the profession alongside embedding careers advice, work experience and digital skills for every child so they get a brilliant education which equips them with the skills they need for work and for life.”

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Queen’s Speech – City MP responds

Reacting to the Queen’s Speech today, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“This was a wasted opportunity. The first line of the Queen’s Speech should have included the introduction of an emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis Portsmouth and the rest of the country are facing. Instead, it was scarcely mentioned at all.

“Nothing to tackle the cost of the weekly shop, energy bills or the price at the pump. Ministers even decided it was better to chuck its Employment Bill in the bin, rather than help to secure good jobs.

“Today’s Queen’s Speech smacks of a government and Prime Minister that is out of ideas, and out of touch. Labour is ambitious for our country. After 12 years of low growth, high inflation and spiralling taxes, Labour’s plan would once again prioritise world-class public services, bring down NHS waiting times, tackle crime and ensure the best education for our children.”

Commenting on schools, the Shadow Schools Minister, added:

“After two years of unprecedented chaos and disruption to children’s education, we saw nothing to support children’s catch-up learning in the classroom, and nothing to tackle the day-to-day challenges pupils and teachers are facing. This government is failing our next generation.

“Labour in government would recruit 6,500 new teachers, back them with improved professional development and ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life, with professional careers advice and work experience for all.”

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Portsmouth MP opens ‘Tops Day Nursery’ in Southsea following national award

Stephen Morgan MP officially opened Tops Day Nursery in Southsea today, following a tour of the facilities on Bruce Road – an award-winning childcare provider for Portsmouth.

During the event, the Portsmouth MP met with staff and children attending the nursery, following a meeting with Cheryl Hadland, founder and Managing Director of Tops Day Nurseries and the Nursery Manager, to discuss future plans and challenges.

Tops Day Nurseries has 8 nurseries across Hampshire, including Tops Portsmouth based onsite at Queens Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and now Tops Southsea in Bruce Road.

Employing 750 people, Tops Day Nurseries was set up in 1990 and operates 32 nurseries across the South Coast, educating and caring for children in their early years.

It comes following news this week that Tops Day Nurseries has been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development. The award was given for Tops Day Nurseries driving ‘genuine and inspiring’ change to its sector.

Cheryl Hadland provides thought leadership and challenges industry norms, such as tackling the huge range of disposable items and one-use plastics, including nappies, gloves and glitter normally used in the sector.

Officially opening the nursery with children and staff, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

I’m delighted to be able open Tops Day Nursery Southsea today, adding further support to parents in our city through providing crucial childcare services.   

“Cheryl and her team have done a fantastic job here, and it was really useful to speak to them about plans for the future, issues they face and of course congratulate them on their latest award!”

“With the cost-of-living crisis, many nurseries and childcare providers are facing real financial challenges and parents with small children feeling the pinch in their pockets. That’s why I will continue to speak up for local families and the early years sector in Parliament to ensure every child in Portsmouth is able to access a high-quality early education.”

Speaking after the official opening event, Cheryl Hadland said:

“I am delighted Stephen Morgan, MP has been to re-open and tour our Tops Day Nursery in Bruce Road, Southsea, and was also able to celebrate our Queens Award for sustainability with us.

“Collaboration is an important part of sustainability so it was lovely to have local writer Neal Leyton read his Planet full of Plastic, local music makers Boogie Mites teach us their new sustainability song, and our LGBTQ+ leader Simon King and manager at Tops QA come to celebrate with us as well.

“Sadly, funding for 3-4 year olds from the government has not kept up with costs at Tops Southsea, and this reduces our ability to pay our staff what they deserve and burdens parents with having to pay more towards their children’s education and care than any other parents in Europe. We also want a healthier environment and future for our children and grandchildren, with fewer diesel and petrol fumes, more attention to reducing waste and recycling and to reducing carbon footprints. 

“Therefore, I look forward to working with our local MP to campaign for a more sustainable future for childcare providers, parents, and children.”

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School energy bills doubled last year as cost-of-living crisis threatens learning

Children’s learning and opportunities are being put at risk, Labour has warned, as the Conservatives’ failure to get a grip on rising prices puts the squeeze on school budgets.

School energy bills doubled in the last year, according to data compiled by the House of Commons Library, with further price rises expected as fixed term contracts come to an end.

The new figures suggest that non-domestic gas and electricity prices almost doubled in 2021, mainly driven by the rise in the cost of wholesale gas prices.

Headteachers last year warned they were being forced to strip back additional support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, staff numbers and activities such as breakfast and afterschool clubs.

Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, Stephen Morgan MP has urged Ministers to work with schools to ensure children do not lose out on further opportunities due to cost pressures.

Unlike domestic customers, schools are not subject to the energy price cap, meaning there is no limit on the price rises they could face as wholesale prices increase.

An investigation by SchoolsWeek recently found that schools in the North East could expect their bills to rise by to one and a half times their current level as prices soar.

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“Children have already faced huge disruption due to the government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, made worse by Downing Street, is further squeezing school budgets.

“Ministers must get a grip and engage with schools to ensure children do not lose out on further opportunities.

“Labour is calling on the government to prioritise children’s learning and development post-pandemic, with breakfast and afterschool clubs, tutoring and mental health support. The Education Secretary must match this ambition with a proper plan to secure children’s futures.”


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Portsmouth MP sees Reading Recovery in action at New Horizons Primary School

Stephen Morgan MP visited New Horizons Primary School today to see first-hand how national initiative Reading Recovery is supporting young students with their reading.

Reading Recovery is a literacy programme designed for the lowest achieving children aged around six that enables them to reach age-expected levels within 20 weeks.

Visiting the school, the Portsmouth MP was able to learn more about how Reading Recovery and a range of other literacy interventions, which are trained by a local Reading Recovery teacher at the school, supports vulnerable learners and offers a safety net to those beginning to fall behind in literacy.

Based at the UCL Institute of Education, the Reading Recovery network supports hundreds of schools across the UK, who use it as an early intervention strategy to reduce the number of children experiencing literacy difficulties.

Each school involved is able to personalise learning, making sure that the phonics teaching fits with the school’s phonics programme.

According to UCL’s Institute for Education, nearly 20% of children (126,356) in England do not meet the expected standards in the Year 1 phonics test. In 2017, nearly 20,000 11-year-olds had reading standards so low that they either could not be entered for the National Reading Test, or took the test but did not achieve any score.

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

“It’s been really useful to see first-hand at New Horizons Primary School the work Reading Recovery is doing to support young people with their reading.

“Students have faced an unprecedented level of disruption to their learning over the last two years, so it’s vital they are able to get the extra support where it’s needed to help them catch up.

“Despite the work of schemes like this one, government cannot rely on them to paper over the cracks as more and more Portsmouth children continue to be at risk of being left behind.

“Only Labour’s Education Recovery has the ambition and vision to match the scale of the challenge ahead. I will continue to lobby Ministers to secure the very best for local students’ futures.”