Last week’s spring statement from the Chancellor was a bitter disappointment for those looking for a helping hand to combat the soaring cost of living. I was especially dismayed by the lack of support for the poorest households, with findings from the Resolution Foundation estimating that a further 1.3 million people – including half a million children – will be plunged into poverty.
Sadly, there was also no mention of children or parents in the spring statement. For families already feeling the squeeze on their wallets from rising food and energy prices, spiralling childcare costs can be the final straw. In a recent survey from Pregnant Then Screwed and Mumsnet, two thirds of respondents said their childcare costs were as much as, or more than, their rent or mortgage.
Schools and early years providers are also desperate for more support. With a quarter of all children having left primary school without meeting reading age standards pre-pandemic (a problem that has only worsened), and £10 billion missing from catch-up funding, we must do more to ensure our schools and teachers have the help they need. The Government’s Schools White Paper, released yesterday, sadly does little to address this.
You can read more about what I’m calling for to help schools and parents catch up on children’s lost learning further below. You can also visit my website to learn about the actions my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are demanding to tackle the cost of living crisis, along with cost of living resources if you need help, support and advice.
In this edition:
- In the media
- My appearance with Twickenham School on BBC Politics London about the reading crisis in our schools
- My comments on the Schools White Paper and Covid rates in schools
- Media coverage of my Teddington Police Station campaign
- Local meetings, events and news
- Encouraging update on Teddington Police Station campaign
- Overwhelming local response to help Ukrainian restaurant Prosperity
- Launch of the Repair Café at St Margarets Church
- Visit to Strathmore School
- Visit to St John the Baptist School
- Standing up for you in Parliament
- Challenged the Education Secretary to address the reading crisis in schools
- Asked the Education Secretary not to cut the School Improvement Grant
- Presented Private Members’ Bill on children’s mental health spending and waiting times
- Demanded more help for Ukrainian refugees
- Confronted the Policing Minister following strip search of schoolgirl and Inspector’s damning report on the Met Police
- Showed my support in Parliament for important causes
In the media
BBC Politics London spoke with me about the reading crisis in our schools and my call for more catch-up funding. They also interviewed Twickenham School’s award-winning Headteacher Assal Ruse. Schools like Twickenham School – the first in the borough to start giving remote lessons during the pandemic – went above and beyond to help their pupils, and I’m calling on the Government to do more to support schools.
I was also quoted in the BBC and The Guardian about the Government’s recently released Schools White Paper. The PA, HuffPost, METRO and My London carried my comments about the Government’s insufficient response to increasing Covid rates in schools.
My London also interviewed Dr. Nick Grundy of Park Road Surgery and me about the surgery’s bid for a new home on the site of the former Teddington Police Station.
Local meetings, events and news
Encouraging update on Teddington Police Station campaign
My campaign to re-purpose Teddington Police Station as a new home for Park Road Surgery and affordable housing received a boost last week when we learned that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is seeking fresh legal advice on whether they can take social value into consideration in the sale of the site. To date, the Mayor has said sites must be sold to the highest bidder by law.
On 23 March, Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, raised the issue of Teddington Police Station at the Police and Crime Committee meeting. Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “We are currently taking fresh legal advice, because I’m obviously aware of what the Minister said in the House of Commons recently in relation to Teddington Police Station.”
This is a great result, and very encouraging news, following on the debates I held in Parliament on this issue.
Overwhelming local response to help Ukrainian restaurant Prosperity
Twickenham’s local Ukrainian restaurant, Prosperity on York Street, has so far sent 30 trucks filled with donations to the Ukrainian/Polish border. I am so in awe of Prosperity’s efforts, and the overwhelming generosity of local residents. I’ve created a dedicated page on my website with more information on how to donate to Prosperity and other organisations.
Launch of the Repair Café in St Margarets Church
My children and I went to the Repair Café at St Margarets Church with a broken globe and some jumpers that needed mending. Thank you so much to Barnard, Claire, Gillian and all the volunteers for running such a fantastic project. The café takes place on the third Saturday of every month. Volunteers can repair textiles, household and garden equipment, ceramics and radios – and there’s also a plant hospital. Find out more here.
Visit to Strathmore School
We’re lucky to have three incredible special schools in our area, providing support and learning opportunities for children with additional needs – Strathmore School, Capella House School and Clarendon School. On my lovely visit to Strathmore recently, I met with the student council lead, chair of governors and curriculum leader for Cultural Capital, along with several pupils.
Visit to St John the Baptist School
At St John the Baptist Junior School in Hampton Wick, I had the pleasure of meeting the house captains in the wellbeing room. Later, pupils asked me some great questions at their assembly. Thank you to Mr Chamberlin and all the staff and pupils for a wonderful visit.
Standing up for you in Parliament
Challenged the Education Secretary to address the reading crisis in schools
In Parliament, I called on the Education Secretary to address the reading crisis in our schools. Shockingly, more than one in four children left primary school without reaching the appropriate reading age pre-pandemic – a problem that will only be worse now.
On 14 March, I demanded an urgent review into reading standards post-Covid, and called on the Government to commit to a Children’s Catch Up Fund of at least £15bn, which was recommended by the Government’s own advisor. You can read more on my website, and watch my question in Parliament below:
Asked the Education Secretary not to cut the School Improvement Grant
In other education news, Sarah Olney (MP for Richmond Park), Ed Davey (MP for Kingston and Surbiton) and I wrote to the Education Secretary urging the Government to reconsider planned cuts to the School Improvement Grant for Richmond and Kingston schools.
The cuts would significantly reduce the ability of local councils in our area to intervene and provide necessary support in under-performing schools. Read the letter here.
Presented Private Members’ Bill on children’s mental health spending and waiting times
As part of my long-running campaign to improve children and young people’s mental health services, I was proud to present my first Private Members’ Bill in Parliament.
The Bill would have ensured that parents can find out how much is being spent on children’s mental health in their local area, after figures revealed a shocking postcode lottery across the country – with some areas spending £15.70 per child and others spending £165.20. In South West London, including Twickenham, the amount spent per child is £67.30. An annual report to Parliament would also provide information on waiting times by area – accurate data is far too difficult to access, yet is crucial for holding ministers and health leaders to account.
Unfortunately, Conservative MPs “talked out” my Bill, meaning it can’t make further progress – but I won’t let this stop my campaign to improve children’s health services.
You can learn more about the actions I’m calling for on my website, and watch the video here:
Demanded more help for Ukrainian refugees
In a debate, I called on the Government to do better for the men, women and children fleeing the war in Ukraine. I spoke about the 70-year-old Ukrainian father of one of my constituents, who had been approved for a British visa, only to be told he had to travel 300 miles to Warsaw to collect it. I am so pleased to say that, thanks to the hard work of my team, he is now safely in the UK. I will continue to call for the removal of complicated visa barriers so that other Ukrainian refugees can make it to the UK without undue bureaucratic burdens.
Confronted the Policing Minister following strip search of school girl and Inspector’s damning report on the Met Police
Like many people, I was absolutely horrified about the case of a 15-year-old girl who was strip searched during the middle of an exam, while she was on her period, because she smelled of cannabis. I asked the Minister if he had spoken to police chiefs to guarantee that no other child will be subjected to such mistreatment again. Watch my question here.
In response to the Policing Inspector’s report on corruption in the Met Police, following the shocking inquiry into the Daniel Morgan murder investigation, I also called on the Minister to ensure the new Met Police Commissioner is appointed with cross-party support, not hand-picked by a Government that is under police investigation itself.
Showed my support in Parliament for important causes
I showed my support for a number of important causes in Parliament recently.
Marie Curie UK’s Great Daffodil Appeal is for the Marie Curie nurses who provide compassionate care to those living with terminal illnesses, and for their families. Find out more here.
I supported Endometriosis Action Month, which you can learn more about here.
At the STEM for Britain Awards in Parliament, I met Dr. Filipe Richheimer from Teddington-based National Metrology Institute (NPL). It was fascinating to hear about his research into next generation solar panels, which is vital for supporting net zero targets.
I also participated in the launch of the 2022 NHS Parliamentary Awards. If you know a local person, team or organisation that has gone above and beyond for the NHS, you can nominate them here.