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Darren calls for increased schools funding and continued free school meals

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has backed calls – ahead of today’s spring budget – for the government to rethink schools funding and changes to free school meals under Universal Credit.

New research by the school cuts coalition of unions (NEU, NAHT, ASCL, UNISON, GMB Union and Unite the union) shows that class sizes are rising in most schools in Bristol North West as a result of the Government’s cuts to education.

There is a particular problem in secondary schools because of a shortfall of £500m a year to funding for 11 – 16-year olds between 2015/16 and 2019/20, plus the deep cuts to sixth form funding (over 17% per pupil since 2010).

62% of secondary schools in England have increased the size of their classes in the last two years (2014/15 to 2016/17). In Bristol North West, secondary schools have an average of 1.2 more students in every class. The average income per pupil in Bristol North West’s secondary schools has also dropped from £5995 in 2015/16 to a forecast of £5247 in 2019/20.

Bristol North West’s primary schools are also not immune with average class sizes having risen by 0.6 pupils per class, this comes alongside 46% of primary schools seeing the pupil to teacher ratio decreasing, leaving pupils with less support.

Darren said:

“ These figures show that the Government is failing in its stated aim to even out the differences in education – 100% of secondary schools in Bristol North West have seen a decrease in the Teaching Assistant to pupil ratio, with 50% also seeing a drop-in pupil to Teacher ratio. 31% of secondary school students also currently access Free Schools Meals, which are at risk because of changes to Universal Credit – we can’t stand back and let these cuts happen – the impact they will have on our children and their families will last a lifetime. Children and young people only get one chance at school and college and we know that education cuts never heal.

As a country we should be investing in this, and future, generations of young people. I am continuing to call on the Government to urgently address the funding crisis, protect free school meals and not continue to ignore these very real problems. I will be writing to each Bristol North West school to ask how the lack of funding will continue to impact their staff and pupils – the government must understand once and for all that good quality education is a price worth paying”.

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Darren calls for reinstatement of 76 bus to Henbury School – sign the petition now:

Darren Jones MP has called for the reinstatement of the number 76 bus to Henbury School following changes to the First Bus route in January 2018.  Darren has written to the Managing Director of First Bus, along with Bristol North West councillors Gill Kirk (Lockleaze) and Helen Godwin (Southmead). Pupils at the school come from across Bristol North West.

Darren Jones MP said:

” A number of pupils, parents and local residents have been affected by the changes to the 76 route through Henbury – bus services are a vital community resource and changes need to be fully considered before they are made. It is totally reasonable for large, urban schools to want a bus stop near-by – not having one is only likely lead to more parents dropping their kids off which creates congestion, parking issues and air pollution. I’ll be meeting with First Bus in early March to discuss these changes alongside the recent fare rises and their practise of charging varying fares based on payment method.”

A petition has been launched to call for the reinstatement of the 76 to Henbury School – you can sign it here.

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Darren supports Time to Talk campaign

Darren Jones MP will be showing his support for the national Time to Talk mental health campaign by attending a ‘Tea and Talk’ event at Henbury Library on 2nd February.

Darren Jones MP said:

“I will be supporting the annual Time to Talk campaign by joining a ‘Tea and Talk’ event taking place Henbury Library on Friday 2nd February.  Too often, it’s left to people with mental health problems to talk about mental health. It’s treated as a taboo subject – something to only be spoken about in quiet corners. Mental health affects us all, and everyone should feel able to talk about it.

Time to Talk helps us spread the word that wherever you are, any place can be the right space to talk about mental health! Too many people with mental health problems are still made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. Conversations have the power to change lives, wherever they take place. I’d encourage employers, schools and community groups to all get involved – together we can tackle the stigma of mental health”.

You can find out more about local events and the Time to Talk campaign here.

 

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Darren backs ‘The Year of Engineering’

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has pledged his support to a national campaign to get more young people (and those from a diverse range of backgrounds) into engineering, in an effort to tackle a major skills gap.

The Year of Engineering, which launched on Monday 15th January, will see government work with hundreds of industry partners to raise the profile of engineering among young people aged 7-16, their parents and their teachers. This will include offering at least a million direct experiences of engineering to young people from all backgrounds – from behind the scenes tours and family days out, to school visits and the chance to meet engineering role models.

Darren Jones MP said:

” The UK faces an estimated shortfall of 20,000 engineering graduates a year, with half of companies in the sector saying the shortage is having a significant impact on productivity and growth. By bringing young people from all backgrounds face to face with engineering experiences and role models, the campaign aims to showcase the creativity and innovation of engineering careers and widen the pool of young people who consider the profession, diversifying a workforce that is currently 91% male and 94% white! I am pleased to support any campaign that encourages young people in my constituency to aim high and fulfil their potential”.

 

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Darren asks the government about sexism in schools

In a written question, Darren wrote:

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the National Education Union report on Sexism in schools published in December 2017, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the relationships and sex education curriculum is designed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment among children and young people at all key stages.

Nick Gibb, Minister for Schools, replied:

On 14 December 2017 the Department published advice for schools on how to prevent and respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment between children: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sexual-violence-and-sexual-harassment-between-children-in-schools-and-colleges.

The Department wants to ensure that all pupils gain the knowledge and skills they need to keep themselves safe and develop healthy, respectful and positive relationships for adult life in modern Britain. The Department is actively engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to develop the regulations and guidance on Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education; and we launched two calls for evidence on 19 December, one for adults and one for young people, to seek views on the curriculum content for these subjects. The calls for evidence close on 12 February and can be accessed via this link: https://consult.education.gov.uk/life-skills/pshe-rse-call-for-evidence/.

We envisage draft regulations and the guidance will be published for consultation later this year. The regulations will then be laid in Parliament.

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Arranging a tour of Parliament

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has reminded constituents that they can book free Democratic Access Tours through their MP.

Arrange a tour through your MP

Members of the public are able to visit the Houses of the Parliament and Palaces of Westminster. Paid tours can be arranged through the Houses of Parliament but free tours are available to UK Residents booking through their MP.

These tours are only available on certain days and at certain times, depending on whether Parliament is in session or in recess. Tours last approximately one hour.

If you would like Darren to try to arrange a tour on your behalf please email the office. Applications should be made as far in advance as possible (up to 6 months) and as it can be difficult to arrange for everyone to take a tour on their preferred date, it would be helpful to provide some alternative dates.

You can find out more about dates and times of small group/individual tours here. 

Schools can find out more about arranging a group visit to Parliament by visiting the Education Service website.

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Darren calls for free schools meals to be protected

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, to call for the government to reconsider implementing a threshold for universal credit claimants entitlement to free schools meals for their children.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Universal Credit is coming to Bristol North West in September 2018. The Government is currently consulting on eligibility for free school meals under Universal Credit, and is proposing the introduction of an earning threshold of £7,400 to determine eligibility.

Up to now, the Government has allowed all claimants on Universal Credit to receive free school meals. Introducing this proposed earnings threshold represents a huge step backwards. The Children’s Society have estimated that this would lead to over one million children in poverty, and over 5000 in Bristol, missing out on free school meals. I’ve written to Justine Greening to raise my concerns about this”.

 

 

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MP backs Meningitis Now Campaign

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has signed up to promote meningitis awareness and vaccination take-up with GPs, following a Parliamentary reception organised last week by charity Meningitis Now.

The charity is campaigning to increase the take-up of the lifesaving Men ACWY vaccine, which is available free to school leavers aged 17 to 18 and first-time university students up to the age of 25. Take-up is currently around 33% and 1.5million young people are at risk.

Darren said:

“ The low uptake of the Men ACWY vaccine is very worrying, especially as we move towards the peak season for bacterial meningitis. I’ll be writing to local GP practices to urge them to do more to promote awareness and encourage young people to have the vaccination.

It is vitally important that students protect themselves with the Men ACWY vaccine and learn the signs and symptoms of the disease. It only takes a few minutes and it could save theirs or their friend’s life.

You can find out more about the symptoms and signs to look out for here“.

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MP responds to Council’s Library Consultation News

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has responded to the news that Bristol City Council has delayed a decision on library closures across Bristol until further research has been undertaken.

Darren said:

“I am pleased the council will be taking more time to review the best way forward for Bristol’s libraries.

Following the Libraries Conference I hosted in September, I wrote to the Mayor with feedback from groups representing Bristol North West libraries. We advocated for further time and research before any irreversible decisions were made. I am delighted further time has now been given to support a longer-term strategy.

The council are under enormous financial pressure to make savings however, libraries play such a vital role in our communities we must look to safeguard them for future generations”.

 

 

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Darren backs Road Safety Week

Road Safety Week, coordinated by the road safety charity Brake, is the UK’s leading event to promote safer road use. This year Road Safety Week focuses calls on all road users to “Speed Down” to help stop the five deaths that still happen every day on UK roads – and particularly to protect people cycling and walking.

Darren Jones, MP for bristol North West said:

“After the tragic loss of a pedestrian’s life on a Henbury road last weekend this year’s Road Safety Week feels very close to home. After years of consistent progress by Labour governments in reducing deaths and serious injuries, sharp increases in recent years have alarmed road safety experts and campaigners. Latest government figures show that in 2016 there was a 4% increase in the numbers of people killed on our roads, the highest level since 2011, and an 8.5% increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured. I am calling on the Government to end complacency on road safety and restore targets to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

The seemingly never-ending reduction in local authority funding has also severely impacted the council’s ability to introduce new road safety schemes or traffic calming measures on minor roads and estates. This is yet another knock-on effect of austerity politics.

With the announcement of £80million additional transport funding for the West of England region in yesterday’s budget, I will be continuing to push for a fully- integrated transport system across Bristol North West – one that makes public transport accessible and affordable and mitigates the gridlock we can expect from the thousands of new homes on the ‘northern fringe’ if proper action is not taken. “