Weekly Round-Up: 18 June 2021

This week we marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of fellow Labour MP Jo Cox. I will always remember her passion and dedication to her community and her determination to help make the UK a better place to live. My thoughts this week have been with her family, especially her children.

One of this week’s Opposition Day Debates focused on education and in particular the Government’s short-sighted decision to reject recommendations from the Government-appointed education expert Sir Kevan Collins with regards to helping our children catch up after this difficult year. Speaking in the debate, I paid tribute to all the school leaders in colleges and schools across south Bristol, and particularly to the parents and young people, for getting through this difficult year. They all had high hopes of the education recovery commissioner.  However, the Government ignored Sir Kevan’s evidence-based plan, awarding just a 10th of the necessary funding and then forcing him to resign because their behaviour, in his words, “betrays an undervaluation of the importance of education”.

I recently met the Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, to discuss the pupil premium and educational outcomes in Bristol South. I also meet school leaders as a group in Bristol South, as I do every year. Such a meeting now happens rarely across south Bristol because of the evolution of the multi-academy trust system; in all, the nearly 40 state-funded schools in Bristol South are run by 12 different organisations. I do think that some MATs act well as a family of schools, but I do not think that they serve the families of south Bristol as well as they should or could. Families live in the communities of south Bristol, not in the community of the MAT. Parents expect each child to be supported and educated well in their community through early years, primary, secondary, post-16 and higher education, but children are experiencing too many different organisations as part of that journey. Crucially, there is no accountability across south Bristol for the outcome of that journey, which is the destination of those young people—their chance in life.

In my six years as MP for Bristol South, my focus has been on further education and apprenticeships post 16 to help young people fulfil their potential, but I have realised that the lack of ownership and accountability for destination, success and outcomes is a major problem that no number of well-meaning piecemeal initiatives will solve. I now see that the pandemic and the loss of learning must be the catalyst for taking this seriously. We will not solve the problem of poor education outcomes for these children without focus on the context of their lives. That focus has to be local and at the transition between all levels. For me, supporting further education is the only approach that can capture those children and, with the right professional support and stability of funding, help them to reach their true potential. Covid-19 has exacerbated the disproportionate impact of poor education on young people. We absolutely need to use this opportunity to make things better for the future.

Research from Citizens Advice released this week has found that, contrary to popular belief, young people in their twenties are actually more at risk from scams than older people. We know how dangerous the internet and even when trying to be careful the most innocuous looking email can be a threat.  But you can protect yourself by following a few simple rules:  don’t ever give money or details to anyone you’ve met online and don’t click on unsolicited links or links from people you do not know.

As you may have seen, I am currently recruiting for two positions within my office, both in London and in Bristol South. I am looking for a Personal Assistant with excellent communication skills and experience of managing a complex diary to support my work in Westminster and a part-time Caseworker to join my constituency team in Bristol South. Closing date for applications is 5 July with a view to starting in the middle of August.  Please do spread the word and pop in an application if you think either position would suit you!

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.  In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy the weekend!