BACK to School and back to Westminster this week! A mini reshuffle to fill the boots of the departing Defence Secretary Ben Wallace means a new Minister for Children has been appointed, writes MP Anne Marie Morris.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our young people’s education has had a damaging effect, and the latest A-level and GCSE results have shown that the significant grade inflation and chunks of lost learning that pupils suffered during the pandemic has been long lasting.

The government’s approach to mitigating the impact of lost learning, by introducing new tutoring programmes and additional pupil funding, has not yet changed the direction of travel to reverse the attainment gap. But it has halted the decline. Tutoring works, but it takes time.

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) has been in the news this week. This type of concrete was used to build a number of schools and other public buildings in the 1950s-1990s. It has proved to have a limited shelf life and must now be replaced to ensure buildings remain safe. There has been only one local school identified as a suspected case.

The government has been surveying all suspected school buildings and headteachers and governing bodies have been advised on how to ensure all children and teachers remain safe.

Giving children the very best start in life through early years education, significantly improves their chances of fulfilling their potential as they grow up. Early years education and childcare go hand-in-hand, and this is why the Chancellor’s announcements in the Spring Budget to significantly expand early years childcare entitlements and boost investment in wraparound childcare for school-aged children are so vital.

Childcare enables people to work, increase their hours, seek out new opportunities and improve their children’s and families’ long-term life prospects. 

The challenge now is to attract and retain a childcare work force. Local initiatives addressing the barriers can make a real difference!

Local government is key to ensuring that educational outcomes are the very best for students, but none more so when it comes to those students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

It is clear that Devon County Council’s current system for SEND provision is not working and Ofsted have found that although there have been improvements, these are still too slow – children are still being failed. But this is not just a Devon County Council issue, other councils across the country have similar challenges. 

Devon MPs and the government have been working closely with the County Council to rectify the overspend and improve the service offering which is good news. 

Providing choice and opportunity is essential to enable our future generations to flourish. 

I have long fought for technical colleges as a viable alternative for those who don’t feel that traditional educational pathways are for them. We have our very own University Technical College (UTC) right here in Newton Abbot, and I am glad to see the college flourishing and enhancing the case for more UTCs to be rolled out across the country! 

As well as providing a strong grounding in English, Maths and Science, curriculum pathways in digital technology, health sciences and engineering prepare students for further education, apprenticeships or direct routes into work. 

And alongside this we need to address the lack of higher-level apprenticeships, another complementary or alternative route to these skills – and a well-paid job. Increasingly parents and students are saying university is not the right choice, and not just for financial reasons. 

While earning and learning clearly makes sense, finding these apprenticeships can be difficult. There is no central system like UCAS where all degree level apprenticeships are registered. There should be!

I wish teachers and students alike a good term – particularly those who have just started at a new school!

► As always, if you would like to book a surgery appointment (in-person or virtual) or raise a specific issue, please call my office on 01626 368277 or email [email protected] to arrange an appointment.