I recently wrote to Edward Timpson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, regarding special education needs provision. I have now received a reply which I thought may be of interest to constituents and it is enclosed below.
Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category
I recently attended a model United Nations conference, where students from five schools in Aylesbury and Buckingham performed the role of delegates and international press reporters.
I heard pupils debating the role of the UN, and how you strike the right balance between the need for international human rights to be respected, but also for the independence and sovereignty of the individual countries, and at what point international intervention is justified. These are the sorts of issues that I and my colleagues in government and in governments across the world are having to grapple with and it’s really great to see young people getting involved with those issues and debating them seriously.
The event was run by Buckinghamshire County Council, and more information can be found on their web-site here.
Work started last week on the new Children’s Centre and Nursery development at Aylesbury College.
The College was recently awarded a £225,000 grant by the Skills Funding Agency, as part of the Government’s plan to invest in Colleges across the country. This grant will go towards the replacement Nursery. The Children’s Centre and Pre-School Area is being funded by Buckinghamshire County Council.
The development will significantly improve the facilities available in a new, state-of-the-art building (see the artist’s impression below). Construction work is due to be completed by the end of March next year, with the Children’s Centre opening in April. The Nursery will open shortly afterwards.
Although the Government is currently working hard to reduce the national deficit, this development at Aylesbury College shows that investment projects in further education are still going ahead. The Government fully understands that colleges in Britain must be adequately equipped for learning, and has pledged to invest £50 million into new further education facilities across the country.
On 8th September I received a letter from John Hayes MP, Minister for Further Education, Skills, and Lifelong Learning, outlining the Government’s plans regarding spending on further education. The letter helps to clarify the Government’s policy on the issue, and can be viewed below.
A lot of hard work and planning had clearly gone into an ambitious programme that included sessions on fair trade, Christian Aid, working with children, spirituality and the environment and reflecting concern for the planet in forms of worship. It was good to see that well over 100 people from all over the Oxford diocese had come to take part.
My own short session on the theme “What Can Politicians Do to Reduce Environmental Impact” sparked a range of questions from the more philosophical – how should we engage with climate change sceptics- to the very down-to-earth – would I support a campaign to help churches get through the tangle of red tape (from diocesan faculty to local authority planners to English Heritage) that prevents or delays the installation of solar panels and other energy saving additions to the church fabric. Answer- yes I will!
One questioner asked how people should go about lobbying their member of Parliament. My answer was that people often underestimate the attention that MPs of all political parties pay to personal representations from their own constituents. In my view, twenty individual letters, each personally worded, are much more effective than a petition signed by 200 people. Even better is a request to ask the MP for a meeting in the constituency, at a mutually convenient time, when you can talk things through in detail. If a campaign can mobilise opinion at the grass roots in this way, it can start to influence national policy ( the best examples in recent years have been the Jubilee 2000 and Trade Justice campaigns). Members of Parliament do talk to one another and if we find thast we have all been getting a lot of letters or emails on a particular subject, that tells us that that cause is becoming important to a lot of people. We will write to Ministers about the issue (and because we have to vote in person, we get to bend the ear of Ministers when their officials are not around). The civil servants find that they are having to draft a lot of replies and the Minister finds that he is having to sign a lot of letters to colleagues. A kind of political osmosis begins to work and change does happen.
Incidentally, my visit to Missenden meant that for two Sundays running I found myself in church with the Bishop of Buckingham. (Last week it was for the County Council Chairman’s civic service, where Bishop Alan delivered a suitably prophetic sermon. Imagine Elijah giving a mild dressing down to a recalcitrant King of Judah and you get the picture). By the way, the Bishop’s blog is well worth dipping into.
I rate Young Enterprise. Its motto is Learning by Doing and what it does each year is to organise a business competition for school students. Each group forms and runs a small limited company, working out the business plan, marketing and selling a product or service and keeping track of the cash! Local business men and women act as advisers but the decisions are taken by the student directors themselves.
At their fair in Friars Square on Saturday, there was a wide range of goods and services on offer – from kitchen energy-saving devices to beanie bags to wooden ornaments to a revision management CD (software written by the students) to jewellery to anti-pong mats for the bottom of wheelie bins to energy bars and drinks to suit either the fitness fanatic or the stressed executive (or MP!).
I made a point of asking each of the teams what they had learned most from the experience. Most said it was a lesson in the importance of teamwork – realising that running a business is a co-operative endeavour that requires you to be able to trust other people to deliver on the tasks that they have agreed to take on.
Aylesbury Vale Young Enterprise is currently looking for someone to help them with fundraising. I hope that the right man or woman comes forward because I doubt that there is a better organisation for introducing young people to wahat business and wealth creation is about.
Friday 5 March: started the day with the joys of the dentist’s chair and then to Aylesbury High School for what was (frighteningly) my 20th annual visit to speak to the Upper Sixth about Conservative politics. There are about 100 formidably bright girls in the audience and I always reckon that this is one of the most stimulating discussions of the year. I’m never sure which subjects are going to come up. I don’t know whether it was the approach of the General Election, but this year’s audience needed no prompting to ask a mass of questions on everything from tuition fees to school reform to the debt crisis to climate change.
Before that session, I spent half an hour with a Year 9 (14/15 year olds) citizenship set. They had emailed me to ask if I could come in to discuss their concerns about discrimination against young people. Anyone who still thinks that young people can’t have a mature conversation about serious topics should have been a fly on the wall. We talked through such issues as the rights of teenagers to seek confidential medical advice and the mistrustful attitude of some shopkeepers towards the young. The students had clearly spent a lot of time thinking through the issues and I was very impressed by the serious and responsible way in which they addressed them.