Education – A nation’s greatest asset

Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings and Rye, reflects on UK Parliament Week:

I had the joy of visiting Aquinas Trust Rye Community Primary School during UK Parliament Week (UKPW) and on Children in Need Day. Rye Primary had registered to take part in UK Parliament Week (November 14 – 20).

UKPW is an annual festival that engages people from across the UK with their parliament, explores what it means to them, and facilitates them to get involved. In 2021, there were over 10,000 activities with over 1.1 million people taking part. It is a great opportunity to empower young people to use their voice to make a difference and participate in local democracy as well as in Westminster. Last year, 90% of participants understood that their engagement with the UK Parliament is essential to democracy as a result of taking part in UKPW.

It is free to take part in UKPW and schools signing up receive a free kit containing a number of themed items including an activity booklet, bunting, stickers, and a ballot box. This year the kit also contained a time-travelling board game celebrating the restoration of Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower. It was heartening and immensely enjoyable to see the children engaging with me during their assembly, asking some excellent, thoughtful, and well-considered questions, all dressed – including their teachers – in their pyjamas to mark Children in Need. The array of sparkly or fluffy slippers and colourful night garments was a sight to behold!

Rye primary will be coming up to Westminster on an education visit in the new year and I will look forward to meeting many of the pupils there.

I was really impressed that the school had not only engaged with UKPW but that it is grabbing opportunities offered to ensure our local children enjoy a range of experiences on offer to teach them about British values.

I have consistently campaigned for better funding for our schools locally; evidence shows that whilst our schools have improved, too many children struggle with poor attainment, especially in literacy and, after Covid, issues have arisen with difficulties in speech and language in too many young children. Poor attainment is sadly common in coastal communities, which is why, as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Coastal Communities, education and skills is one of the themes in the APPG’s ongoing inquiry into the current issues affecting coastal communities; we recently had an inquiry session as regards skills and aspirations in coastal communities and will look to produce recommendations for the government in due course.

Education is a vital tool for social mobility, to get on in life, and is key to levelling up. One of the main aims of this government is to ensure that more children will leave primary school having achieved the expected standards in reading, writing, and maths. In 2019, 65% of children leaving primary school achieved this – the aim is that 90% of children will achieve it by 2030. After campaigning for extra funding in education, I was delighted that East Sussex county was made an education investment area (with Hastings having ‘priority’ status) earlier this year, one of the 55 areas in the country to benefit from improved schools by more intensive funding and support from the Department for Education.

I was also pleased that education was earmarked in the recent autumn statement with £4.6 billion in extra funding over the next two years. This is a further addition to the £4 billion already promised and brings the total spending on schools to £58.8 billion in the year 2024-25 – an increase of 15% over two years. Our local schools, our teachers, and children will benefit from this commitment by the government to invest in levelling up and our future. It goes without saying that I will continue to campaign for our schools, especially on the national funding formula, so that our children have the best possible education.

After all, an educated population is any nation’s greatest asset.

Image Credits: Martin Bruce .

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