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Darren plants tree saplings at Oasis Academy Long Cross

As part of his mission to visit every school in Bristol North West, Darren Jones MP has visited Oasis Academy Long Cross in Lawrence Weston to meet staff and students and take part in a tree sapling planting for Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.

Five trees were donated to Darren Jones MP thanks to a partnership between the Woodland Trust, Sainsbury’s and ITV.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:

i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable,

ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life,

iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

Darren said after the visit:

“I have planted 5 tree saplings – two silver birch, two rowan, and a hazel today (30th November) alongside students from Oasis Academy Long Cross in Lawrence Weston. I grew up in Lawrence Weston, and attended the former guise of this school so it is particularly special for me to visit as the local MP. I have chosen to plant my saplings at a local school as I think it’s vital that children and young people get to experience planting and nurturing trees and plants first-hand.

It’s great all four Bristol MPs took part and there will be 20 new hazel, silver birch and rowan trees across the city thanks to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project. As part of my visit, I also got to speak to students, school leaders and teaching staff which is always really inspirational but also worrying as I hear first-hand the impact austerity politics and cuts have had on staff and the services they can deliver. I will continue to call for proper and fair school funding – education can not be done ‘on the cheap'”.

Woodland Trust Chief Executive, Beccy Speight said:

“We are delighted so many MPs have decided to join us in our bid to plant trees as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. We all need trees. They are a cornerstone of our landscape and countryside, forming an essential and cherished part of our cultural identity. They are crucial in improving soil health and water quality, reducing carbon, trapping pollutants, slowing the flow of flood water, sheltering livestock, providing a home for wildlife or a space for us to breathe. I hope the residents of Bristol North West will enjoy watching them flourish as part of this wonderful legacy initiative.”

You can follow Darren’s work on education here.

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Darren demands stop to Universal Credit roll-out

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has signed a letter, alongside all South West Labour MPs, calling on Amber Rudd the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to stop the roll-out of Universal Credit and for immediate measure to be put in place to reverse the hardships it has caused.

This follow’s Darren’s extensive work on Universal Credit:

Darren first called for a delay to the roll out to new benefit claimants in October 2017. Universal Credit was, at that time, due to be rolled-out from Horfield and Shirehampton Job Centres in May 2018 (this was delayed until September 2018 with some additional funding in place).

Darren also backed large-scale changes to the full migration of existing benefit claimants onto Universal Credit in advance of the 2017 Autumn Budget and in advance of the 2018 Autumn Budget, he called on the Chancellor to keep the government’s promise to ensure no benefit claimant would suffer hardship, or less income, under Universal Credit.

Darren also wrote to then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, calling for an end to the ‘two-child policy’ on benefits in October 2018 and – ahead of the 2018 Spring Budget – for free schools to be protected under the Universal Credit roll-out.

Darren said:

“Universal Credit, as it stands, is a cruel and shambolic system forcing many into debt. Claims often take weeks and weeks to resolve! I am clear that it should not take people to lose their homes, resort to food banks or go to unscrupulous lenders to survive for the government to act – especially when charities, MPs and advice organisations have been shouting warnings about financial hardship and waiting times for well over a year. I call upon the Secretary of State to listen to concerns and stop the roll-out of Universal Credit”.

Darren writes to Government on future of funding for State Nursery Schools

On the 24th of October 2018, Darren wrote to express his concern at the lack of funding for maintained (i.e. state) nursery schools. Maintained nursery schools have to meet similar regulatory standards to schools for other age groups, but their funding does not reflect this. Their private sector counterparts do not have to meet this standard.

Budget 2018: funding of state nursery schools

Maintained nursery schools provide great benefit to the children of Bristol North West, especially for children from families on lower incomes.

 

Bristol is a city full of promise but it’s also an incredibly unequal place. In my constituency I represent some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country as well as some of the most affluent. This often means that your chances in life – be it due to education, training or health – can be significantly different depending on which postcode you’re born in, such postcodes often being only hundreds of yards apart.

 

Good Early Years education for everyone is key to levelling this playing field in Bristol. Outcomes are improving at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage: 69% of children achieved a good level of development in 2018, up 1.3% this year. The gap between those in the 30% most disadvantaged areas and their peers has narrowed by 5% in four years, to 13%. State nursery schools are a key part of this: 63% of them are graded outstanding by Ofsted.

 

Despite this, nursery schools in Bristol and across the country are on the brink of bankruptcy. In 2016-17, 18% of maintained nursery schools were in deficit. They form part of a childcare provider system missing £370 million in funding, yet with a promised 33% in additional cuts from 2020.

 

Furthermore, the current funding system places state nursery schools under additional unnecessary pressure. Despite state nursery schools having to meet higher regulatory standards as schools, instead of the less rigorous regulation required of private and voluntary sector equivalents, they are not given block funding or premises financing, which all other schools are.

 

Your colleague, Nadim Zahawi MP, has said that this will be reviewed. But I’m writing today to stress the urgency of this issue, with the hope that you might announce proper funding for nursery schools in your budget on Monday.

 

Treating nursery schools as other schools, with proper funding, will provide a sustainable future for nursery schools allowing them to continue to be able to transform the life chances of many of my constituents.

In late November a reply was received from the Government:

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Darren demands proper funding of Bristol schools

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones said:

“Today (30th Nov) is #FundingFriday – where members of the National Education Union (NEU) will be calling on the government to fund education and our young people’s futures properly. Not those ‘little extras’ that the chancellor patronisingly referred to in the Autumn Budget but the must-haves like staff, safe and warm buildings and learning equipment!

I’ll be visiting Oasis Academy Long Cross today to meet with students, staff and governors to talk about how cuts are affecting them and see first-hand how hard staff are working to compensate for the lack of government support. I regularly visit schools across Bristol North West so I understand the huge pressure leaders are under to make cuts and how many teaching staff are considering leaving the profession as the stress is unbearable.

Members of the NEU – the leaders, teachers and support staff in our local schools – are saying enough is enough – I agree! I am proud to show my support today – and every day – for the campaign to end short-sighted and cruel school cuts“.

You can support the NEU’s campaign here: https://neu.org.uk/handsupsupporters

You can follow Darren’s work on education here.

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Darren opens The Hive at Claremont School

As part of his mission to visit every school in Bristol North West, Darren Jones MP recently visited Claremont School in Henleaze to open their new post-16 centre ‘The Hive’.

Darren said after the visit:

” A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of opening the new post-16 centre ‘The Hive’ at Claremont School in Henleaze.

The building work at the Special Educational Needs School started back in May and included extending and converting pre-existing structures, with the final work finished in September 2018.

The benefit of moving post-16 students to this site is extensive. It’s of vital importance, older students have access to community learning with activities such as visiting the shops on the High Street, visiting supermarkets and cafes in Henleaze, getting the bus to the Mall and city centre, as well as trips to the community café and allotments at Golden Hill.

I was told it was difficult for young people and school staff to access community learning from the Redland site. However, with local amenities just minutes away from the site in Henleaze this was felt to be an ideal position for The Hive.

I wish the new centre, its students and school staff every success. It is absolutely vital every young person has first class support and education and can learn in a safe and supported environment”.

You can follow Darren’s work on education here.

(Photo Credit: Sue Thomas – Henleaze and Westbury Voice)

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Darren calls for parity for children’s mental health funding

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, has commented on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services following release of a major new report from the Children’s Commissioner for England.

The report includes a detailed break-down of spending, waiting times and the number of children turned away for each area of England. This has enabled Darren to take a detailed look at provision in Bristol. Bristol CCG’s results show that between April 2017 and March 2018:

• 41% of children who are referred to NHS CAMHS services are not accepted for treatment. The Commissioner does not know what, if any, alternative support is available to these children.

• Of those who are accepted, 47% are seen within 4 weeks – this compares to 80% across England. 19% have to wait more than 6 weeks.

• Children’s mental health accounts for less than 1% of local NHS spending (0.99% locally). Per capita, adult mental health services are funded at three times the rate of children’s services. Bringing about parity of spending (per head) requires an additional £1.7bn to be invested in children’s mental health services nationally.

In response the Children’s Commissioner calls for the three commitments from NHS England to be included within the forthcoming NHS 10-yr Plan, I support:

1) A spending benchmark that brings parity between child and adult mental health, achieved within five years.

2) A large expansion of community mental health treatment to ensure that by 2023 the NHS is in a position to ensure no child who needs help is turned away. This should be combined with a clear four-week waiting times target.

3) A comprehensive plan for the NHS and local partners to provide lower-level children’s mental health services, to ensure easy access before conditions deteriorate. This should include an NHS-funded counsellor in every school.

Darren said:

“I will be meeting the CCG in the New Year and plan to raise these mattes for further discussion. I believe we can – and must – do better to ensure our young people get the support they need and deserve – the first step would be giving parity of funding per person to children and adolescent services as they do to adult mental health service. 41% of those referred for treatment do not receive it – that is genuinely concerning and must be fully investigated”.

 

 

 

 

 

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Darren hosts school debate on energy drinks and social media use for Parliament Week

To celebrate Parliament Week 2018, Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, chaired a debate with students, parents and teaching staff at Oasis Brightstowe in Shirehampton on Friday 15th November.

As both the local MP and a member of the Science and Technology Committee, Darren Jones MP met students, parents and teaching staff at the Shirehampton school to discuss the government’s consultation on energy drinks which includes options to ban the sale of said drinks to either those under 18 or all under 16’s. The debate also included discussion on the impact of screen time and social media use on young people – a subject the committee has also investigated.

Darren has previously shared his concerns about the advertisement and marketing of energy drinks and health impacts on young people and urged for tighter restrictions on their sale.

Following the committee’s inquiry into energy drinks, Darren launched a constituency-wide survey to gather feedback on the government’s proposals. The survey showed 89% of respondents agreed with banning the sale of energy drinks to under 16’s, 80% believed only those over 18 should be allowed to purchase energy drinks. There was also overwhelming support (93%) for tighter regulation on the advertisement of energy drinks with 90% of constituents undertaking the survey feeling cigarette-style health warnings should be prominently displayed on packaging.

One anonymous constituent who works with children with SEN said “Children often miss meals, lose out on sleep (due to social media and gaming) and make poor dietary choices. Energy drinks have a massive impact on all children, but for those who are medicated for conditions such as ADHD it has a hugely detrimental effect. Although these drinks are banned in school, many children drink them on their way to school as they believe it will help them focus. This is especially true during exams.”

Darren said:

“  I would like to thank everyone who completed my survey on energy drinks and attended today’s debate at Oasis Brightstowe. Whilst I have my own views and experiences of energy drinks and social media use, it is vital I hear from a wide range of people, so I can best represent their views – especially those of young people themselves.

Prior to the government’s consultation, I called for a detailed investigation on the health impact of these sugary, caffeine-filled drinks and urged for closer regulation of their sale and advertising. It’s clear people in Bristol North West share my concerns as did the young people I spoke with today – I continue to urge the government to bring a bill before parliament that restricts the sale of these drinks to those under 16”.

Darren added

“We also discussed social media use and the impact of screen time – with some of the students saying they spend around three hours a day on their phone and with all of the students having a phone by aged 12 clearly impact of ‘prolonged phone time’ needs more investigation. Interestingly, all the students and parents were supportive of the school’s ban on phones throughout the day to help support learning and ensure the school was a cyber-bullying free space.

At committee meetings, I’ve asked experts what affect social media and screen use have on young people’s health and it’s clear whilst most experts agree there is an impact on concentration, body image and self-confidence, we don’t know enough and technology is continuing to outpace the government’s regulation of the sector. I will continue to seek greater funding for cyber-policing, research and enforcement of online regulation to ensure our young people and all our data is safe”.

 

 

 

 

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Darren signs Bristol’s Equality Charter

Prior to launch on 12th November 2018, Member of Parliament for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has signed Bristol’s inaugural Equality Charter as one of the first signatories. The Bristol Equality Charter is a city-wide initiative co-designed by private, public and voluntary sector organisations, committed to improving equality of opportunity for everyone in Bristol and to eliminating discrimination in all its forms.

BRISTOL EQUALITY CHARTER

Bristol is a vibrant city with a growing diverse population. We share an ambition to create a fairer, safer, accessible and inclusive city where everyone feels they belong, has a voice and an equal opportunity to succeed and thrive.

Darren Jones MP is committed to making a real difference by:

1. Making Bristol a welcoming city where everyone feels they belong.

2. Inspiring trust and confidence in all the city has to offer.

3. Recognising, valuing and celebrating diversity.

4. Building good relations and understanding between people.

5. Promoting inclusion, participation and equal access.

6. Challenging discrimination, harassment, bullying, hate crime and victimisation.

As an organisation the office of Darren Jones MP will:

1. Recognise, support and empower those responsible for promoting equality in our organisation.

2. Listen to and understand the diverse needs of all people to make our information, services and products more accessible and inclusive.

3. Review the diversity of our workforce in order to identify areas for improvement and set ourselves equality goals.

4. Ensure that equal opportunities are integral to how we recruit and treat our workforce.

5. Address all allegations of discrimination, harassment, bullying and victimisation in an effective and timely manner.

6. Play our part in promoting good relations between people from different backgrounds.

7. Share good equality practice and improve outcomes for all those living, working, studying in or visiting Bristol.

8. Measure and share our progress and success.

Darren said:

“ I couldn’t be at today’s (12th November) launch event as I am back in Westminster but I’m proud to be supporting the city’s inaugural Equality Charter.

I am wholly committed to the charter’s values of equality, diversity and inclusion and I will ensure they are reflected in both my parliamentary work and the work I do to champion my constituent’s voices here in Bristol.

Bristol is a diverse, vibrant city and one in which everyone should be safe, included and heard. We know there is still much more to do to ensure we have an equal society nationally and locally – that’s why this charter, led by Bristol City Council‘s Deputy Mayor Councillor Asher Craig, is a step in the right direction.

I’ll continue to promote democratic inclusion, participation and equal access at every opportunity”.

 

 

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Darren visits Bristol Uni’s Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, recently met with the team at Bristol University’s Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information.

Darren said:

” It was interesting to visit Bristol University’s Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information recently, where I was able to hear about all of the invaluable work being carried out and to see their Quantum Engineering Labs.

My visit follows evidence to the Science and Technology Committee’s Inquiry (of which I am a member) into Quantum Technologies in June of this year.

I was able to hear about the full range of quantum-related activity at the University, from theory to enterprise. The discussion covered everything from the potential economic impact of quantum computing to ensuring Universities can access the necessary funds and people to make it happen.

I would to like to thank the team for such a thoughtful and informative discussion, and pledge to continue to do what I can to ensure the UK embraces the possibilities offered through quantum technologies”.

 

 

 

 

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Darren calls for more deaf children’s services funding

Teachers of the Deaf can create a proper learning environment for deaf children, give them specifically enhanced teaching and work with other staff to ensure that deaf children’s needs are met. Despite all of this, due to local authority cuts their numbers in the South West are falling: there has recently been a 16% drop. In an era where almost double the amount of deaf children are failing to get 5 good GCSEs than non-deaf children, that’s not good enough.

Darren made this point in a Parliamentary debate about deaf children, with the help of two of your stories.