My Speech for the School Holiday (Meals and Activities) Bill

I was really disappointed that I was not called to make my speech on the School Holiday (Meals and Activities) Bill on Friday 19th January. Here is what I was planning to say:

Thank you Mr Speaker, and I would like to thank the Rt Honourable member for Birkenhead for bringing forward this important Bill, which I whole heartedly support.

What kind of society do we want?  That is what we need to ask ourselves.

Do we want to live in a country where children end up foraging around their home in the summer holidays for something to eat?

Do we want to live in a country where a child clings to a teacher’s hand as the school holidays approach, not wanting to leave the school, because they know they’ll be hungry for the next 6 weeks?

Do we want to live in a country where a child comes back to school after the holidays with a lunchbox filled only with a slice of stale bread?   

I have witnessed these things Mr Speaker, and I can tell you that is certainly not the kind of country that I want to live in!

5 years ago, this was an issue in the deprived areas where I worked as a head teacher.

5 years later, and not only is the issue still unresolved, but it has been exacerbated by cuts to support networks and with the roll-out of Universal Credit.   

No parent should have to worry about how they are going to feed their children through the summer months.

No parent should have to miss a meal to make sure that their children get one. No parent should have to face this, but sadly parents across the country are still struggling

Three million children face school holiday hunger each summer.  

Whilst many voluntary groups work exceptionally hard to provide food and support to families across the UK it is clear that those children and families have been failed.

Only in the summer of 2017, the chief executive, of the Trussell Trust, David McAuley said “Rising demand in the summer holidays as families struggle to get by without free school meals” is at the root of the problem”.

 Last year the Trussell Trust handed out an additional four thousand, four hundred and twelve more emergency three-day parcels than in the previous July and August.

Put yourselves in the mind of one of those parents for a moment,  maybe you are working nights  and your partner is working days to keep a roof over you heads.

You know when the children go to school each day in term time that they receive a hot meal,  that is balanced and has the right nutrients to help them grow and develop.

Having that meal means when they get home, you know that a ham sandwich or something light will see them through to the next day. It’s the best you can do. It’s all you can manage.

 But now you face the school holidays.

When children don’t have that hot school meal provided in the day, so you need to find them something warm to eat.   

You need to find the additional money to put in the meter to turn the cooker on.

You need to just get through that 6 weeks, till they go back to school

Put yourself in that parent’s shoes and I challenge anyone to tell me that they cannot see the issue here. 

Mr Speaker, we need urgent action on this issue. We cannot let children down again, so now is the time to act.

We need to look at how families with children who receive free school meals can be better supported in the summer months.

We need to ask councils to keep school kitchens open over the summer so children get a balanced hot meal each day of the holiday.

We need a Government who will show some compassion and an Education Secretary who will listen to people like my Rt Honourable friend who has brought this Bill forward,  education professionals and local authority workers,  they have ideas to tackle this, but need the Government to have the drive and willingness to put some money behind it, to do something about it,  to do the right thing.

Education Committee – Accessibility of Apprenticeships

On Tuesday in the Education Committee meeting on the quality of skills and apprenticeships training, I asked the panel about the barriers to accessing apprenticeships, including having to pay for transport, uniforms and childcare, and what can be done to reduce these barriers.

This follows a survey of apprenticeship pay in July, which found that 18% of apprentices were paid below the appropriate national minimum wage or national living wage.

The Young Women’s Trust found that 43% of apprentices said that the costs associated with doing an apprenticeship are higher than their earnings as an apprentice. It also found that more than half of apprentices struggle to cover basic living costs such as rent or utilities.

Colne Valley Constituency Businesses Survey

We have some fantastic, creative and inspiring businesses in the Colne Valley constituency, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and meeting many of them and will be talking with many more at the Colne Valley Business Conference which I am hosting on 9th February.

I’m always keen to learn more about the concerns, pressures and issues impacting on businesses and your ideas for what needs to change in the future, so today I am launching a short online survey.

If you are a small or medium business based in the Colne Valley constituency, your feedback will be very valuable and help my work in support of local businesses.  The survey is open to SMEs of all types – private businesses, social enterprises, co-operatives and others – and from all industry sectors.

You can fill out the survey here:

Education Committee Fostering Report

Over the last few months, the Education Select Committee have been taking evidence on fostering and how fostered children are supported. We have now released a report into our findings.

This is the first formal report that I have been involved with since becoming an MP, and I am delighted that we have managed to highlight some of the issues around fostering, allowing the Government to address those issues. One U-turn the Government has already made, is that foster parents will now be entitled to the full 30 hours free childcare for children they foster. This could help over 3000 children.

We still have a way to go to make sure that foster carers and children are fully supported, but this report is certainly a first step in the right direction.

You can read the full report here:

PMQ – Pressures on teachers

Today, I asked my second question to the Prime Minister.

I asked her whether her Government would listen to education professionals, and fully and fairly fund our schools; end the toxic culture of targets and tests; deliver a broad and balanced curriculum; and most of all return the joy of teaching back to our classrooms.

TES – Pressure on teachers to protect children’s mental health

Back in December, I spoke to the TES (Times Educational Supplement), about my experience as a teacher, the work I have done in Parliament since being elected and my priorities for the New Year.

In particular, I’m concerned about the pressure being put on teachers to help protect children’s mental health, and the effect this is having on their wellbeing.

I believe that teachers are saying: ‘Where does my brief end? I came into this as an educator. Of course there’s a pastoral role, but I’m not a mental health nurse. What else am I responsible for?’

Here is the link to the article: