More important legislation has been passed this week to ensure laws are in place before the King’s Speech on 7th November.
For those who don’t know, proposed legislation falls once Parliament has been prorogued unless we vote to put it as a carry over Bill. This means that my ‘Not in School’ Register Bill will likely fall but I am pushing for it to be in the King’s Speech if the Department for Education will put it through as a government bill.
We need this register more than ever because local authorities need to have the powers to visit homes where children are being home educated when it is necessary. The latest death of Sara Sharif illustrates why this is important, she was being ‘home educated’ with the excuse that she was being teased at school for wearing a hijab.
Most home educators are doing a great job but there are an increasing number of children being home educated and many of them could need support as well as being protected. One young person, who had been home educated, wrote to tell me about his experience and told me he could have done with support as he had to educate himself.
We had a fiery Public Accounts Committee meeting this week questioning the Permanent Secretary from the Department for Education about RAAC. There was incredulity she and her colleague came without facts and figures as to how many schools are affected and how many temporary classrooms are being put in place. Essex has been particularly badly affected, as many schools were built after the war with RAAC, and my MP colleague from Essex was furious. It was very strange to appear before PAC and not have those figures at hand.
We had two sessions and the next one was with the DEFRA permanent secretary about waste management and resources. She told me the department had a comprehensive plan but was still working on the details. I questioned whether it could be comprehensive without any detail! We are trying to put consistency into our waste management systems so every resident knows what can be recycled around the country. The long-term aim is to use recyclable products in the first place and reduce resources used.
I also questioned her on the deposit return scheme that is taking far too long to bring in. Having seen how well it works in the USA and other countries, I have been asking for this. It will mean far less litter on our roadsides and streets – the estimate is a 85% reduction or more. It is certainly easier to take plastic bottles and cans back with a financial incentive at the end. We used to get 5c for each bottle and can in the States and it helps with the grocery bills.
On Tuesday, the Education Select Committee questioned a panel on why there were teacher shortages in some subjects and I asked about the impact on learning. One of the panel was a German teacher who said that he ended up teaching French and Spanish, often learning what to teach before the lesson. This is fine in some subjects but getting people to teach physics without a good understanding must be impossible. The inquiry continues but I hope we can come up with some good solutions in our report to put forward to the government about how to recruit more.
It is a great career and very disappointing that some subjects are struggling to find teachers. It is not all about pay but about workload, and asking teachers to prepare for subjects that they are not qualified to teach in does not help. I was interested to see two private schools announce this week they will not be taking GCSEs except for Maths and English as they feel, just like me, they are not fit for purpose anymore and time would be better spent on learning rather than preparing for high stakes exams.
I hosted an excellent film on the history behind the Israel/Palestine conflict. If anyone wants to see it, let me know and I will send you the link. It has not been shown in public yet but is an excellent description of why things are going wrong.
On Thursday I visited the Defence and Security Exhibition (DSEI) at the Excel centre and was delighted to see some of our defence equipment being lauded by those who are using it.
Ajax, an armoured fighting vehicle, has had huge issues - now rectified - and the mechanics and soldiers were very happy with it. I had a look at soldiers’ equipment - now being better designed to fit all sizes of bodies, and heard from the RAF how serving personnel are given the opportunity to improve ways of working and equipment and are given grants to develop them. I know the other services are now doing this too and the army has set up a unit talking to SMEs about innovation.
The enthusiasm from everyone I spoke to was encouraging for the future of our defence and security. Sadly, I only had three hours there. However I was delighted to visit two Meon Valley exhibitors. Safran Helicopter Engines are a major local employer I have mentioned before in my newsletters.
I also met Fischer Connectors who make a range of communications equipment for military customers in addition to their civilian business.
Today, I have met up with Donna Jones, the Police and Crime Commissioner, and the Chief Constable to hear about the plans for the reorganisation of Hampshire and Isle of Wight police. This involves more neighbourhood policing and I think we will see a difference. I then went out to talk to people on the doorstep in Swanmore. I will be surveying around the area to get a good picture of what people are thinking but do keep writing to me if you have ideas.
British Food Fortnight starts tomorrow. This week I met Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union. We have amazing farmers and producers across Meon Valley and I hope like me you support them all year-round. But the next fortnight is a great time to focus on them and spread the news about the excellence of British food.
I am looking forward to Winchester University’s Freshers Fair tomorrow. As usual it is all go.
Have a great weekend.