Education, Education, Education – no, not Tony Blair’s false promises, but the theme of my week, with seemingly most of my meetings and visits linking back to Education.
Firstly, I was delighted to meet with Dr Anne Hunt, CEO of Council for Learning Outside the Classroom - a charity which seeks to maximise the opportunities for young people beyond the traditional classroom. Whether visiting places of interest, or interesting people / activities visiting the school. I am a passionate supporter of this, what better way to inspire young people to learn, explore and spark interest in future career paths.
This is one of the reasons I spend so much time visiting schools to do interactive assemblies and offering my comprehensive summer work experience programme. I am keen to encourage more local businesses / organisations to link up with our local schools – collectively this could make a real difference.
Secondly, I met Gary Evans, CEO of the Blue Kite Trust who are responsible for a growing number of Swindon’s Primary Schools. We discussed potential opportunities with Dr Anne Hunt and their plans to expand in the future – something I am readily supporting.
Thirdly, it was a real pleasure to return to Kingsdown Secondary School to meet with the Leadership Team. What a transformation we have seen at Kingsdown Secondary School in recent year, with a dramatic improvement in results, attendance, behaviour, and outcomes. It is no wonder admissions have rocketed. The Leadership Team and staff can rightly be proud.
On the visit we discussed the pressure within Special Education Needs (SEN) provision, both within mainstream schools and where students are seeking placements. Whilst funding in this area continues to increase, so does the demand and complexities in an area where staff recruitment is challenging. They fed in very helpful innovative solutions, which by chance I was able to raise on my next visit immediately after.
Finally, following the Government reshuffle this week we now have a new Schools Minister, Damien Hinds MP. He asked to spend his first few days visiting different schools, and he agreed to come to Swindon to visit both Brimble Hill and Uplands Schools, both as part of the Brunel Academies Trust, to meet their dedicated and professional staff within these excellent SEN schools. This was a great opportunity to discuss future plans and how they can continue to work closely with provision across the wider mainstream schools in Swindon.
Whilst the asks of the Minister from Kingsdown and Brunel Academies Trust both require capital investment (new buildings) both have a strong case to help reduce the growing waiting lists and reduce day to day costs where expensive out of area provision must be bought to meet demand.
On a light-hearted finish, as I arrived at Parliament this week the reshuffle had begun and I tweeted, ‘just saw a colleague confidently striding out of Parliament. He definitely deserves a promotion, so I wished him - good luck. Turns out he was off to Greggs. Shame.’ This went viral and was the Spectator quote of the day! I have promised not to name the colleague, though he was embarrassed to admit lots of his friends guessed it was him for being such a loyal Greggs customer.
Alas he didn’t get a call, but the very of luck those new Ministers who did!