The last four weeks for me have had a strong focus on education. All in all I’ve visited five secondary schools, meeting with the head teacher at each. These meetings have been extremely useful and have given me a real insight into the challenges there are within our schools.
During my meetings a number of themes have emerged that I plan to raise with the appropriate people and Government organisations over the comings months. Teacher recruitment and retention seems to be an issue at many of our schools. Yes this is a national problem also but there do seem to be some factors specific to Ipswich that need to be addressed. It’s important that being a teacher in Ipswich schools is as attractive as possible. Great teachers should be attracted to come to Ipswich and its about finding a way of making teaching in Ipswich schools as appealing as possible. It’s not good that many of our Head’s are constantly worried about losing some of their best teachers.
Last year it was announced that Ipswich would be an Education Opportunity Area. In short this is bringing millions of pounds of extra Government money into schools in Ipswich. This needs to be welcomed. I’ve been very interested to learn about some of the ways this extra money has been spent. Some excellent initiatives have been launched in Ipswich schools as a result of the Government making Ipswich and Education Opportunity Area. However, concerns were also raised about the strings attached with accessing the funding. My view is that we need to trust our teachers to get on with the job of investing the extra money in initiatives they know will work for their school. Yes there needs to be sound process but we need to minimize the bureaucratic burden placed upon teachers who are already under a significant amount of pressure.
Unsurprisingly, each of the head teachers also raised concerns about county lines. It’s sickening that many young vulnerable people in Ipswich can become the victim to this. The only way that we can hope to tackle this is by working together. Multi agency. Close working and strong relationships between school leaders and the police is an absolute must. The pastoral support provided by schools in many cases appears to be very strong. However, its important that teachers should be able to focus fully on the teaching. The pressure on teachers in our schools is significant and their roles more diverse than many seem to realise.
In summary then there is much to be positive about. We have some great teachers and in general all the schools I’ve visited appear to be heading in the right direction and improving. However they face many challenges. Funding, teacher recruitment and retention, county lines being three that immediately spring to mind. Our secondary schools vary as do their intakes and some of the challenges they face are therefore different. My initial view is that Suffolk schools need fairer funding from central Government, there needs to be more initiatives and thought given to make teaching in Ipswich schools as attractive as possible (financial incentives may need to be considered), and there needs to be strong and close working relationships between the schools and the police when it comes to county lines and other anti-social behaviour problems. Ideally there needs to be one person within the police who is responsible for liaison with a particular school. Its important that senior teachers are able to develop close relationships based on trust with the local police.
The Education Opportunity Area for Ipswich will last for three years and we’re one year in. The funding is very welcome but at its best the initiative could be transformational for Ipswich schools. It’s important that one year in the concerns teachers have raised associated with the bidding process are addressed. We need to ensure that the initiative is a game changer for schools in Ipswich and a real catalyst for the future. The opportunity should not be missed.
I have almost finished my tour of secondary schools within Ipswich at which point I will start visiting some of our primary schools. This Friday I will also be meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Suffolk.
When you first become a Councillor, apart from the great honour and excitement you, feel it changes your life completely. Suddenly, residents are asking you for help: some with very private and sad issues, others asking for help on matters that involve, perhaps, a whole area. When I was first elected, back in 2002, one of the biggest issues that came to light was a planning application for building on the area known as the Woodland off Mitre Way. This application and subsequent ones failed, which was purely because the residents came together to fight the applicant and even this year we have been successful again. In Holywells Ward we have had some really testing issues over the years: traffic lights at the top of Bishops Hill; the proposed large bridge so close to Cliff Lane and still ongoing; a proposal to put a supermarket where Holmes Oak Court is now right next to the Park; not cutting the grass along Nacton Road and Clapgate Lane and many more. So working together the Power of the People is a very successful tool.
Often services are improved in the area you represent because of your work with the community – pavements, grass cutting, road improvements including calming measures, parking issues, the need for more buses, bus shelters, more police the list is endless. Councillors just have to be persistent.
In Holywells Ward, Associated British Ports is very important. Not only does it employ local people it plays a big part in the community. This is also the case with the University and Suffolk New College and having students living amongst us is a great asset locally and for the rest of the town. It is also important to involve local businesses, restaurants and to promote local charities in their work in the town and in the Ward you represent.
I have to say over the 16 years I have been a Councillor I have found residents are keen to improve their local areas and to help where they can by taking part in community events. I have also found that the schools, churches, Friends Groups, charities, Community Interest Companies and businesses all pull together when there is a need and I have been very proud to help and to represent them and the residents in Holywells Ward.
Following on from this, here is an extract (p.260) from Lord Tebbit’s autobiography Upwardly Mobile, in which he tells us about a Party Political Broadcast he released with subtitles. Alas, because the other parties didn’t produce their broadcasts the same way, the BBC initially turned it down.
The overwhelming transport infrastructure priority for Ipswich is a northern relief road. Over the past month it’s been made clear to me whoever I’ve spoken to just how important this is for the Town. The reality is that this infrastructure should have been delivered 20/30 years ago but it hasn’t and the people of Ipswich have paid the price for this through increasing levels of traffic.
As long as I’ve been alive the whole of East Anglia hasn’t received the level of investment it needs to upgrade its transport infrastructure. This is definitely the case in Ipswich. Whatever the colour of the Government of the day, the adequate level of investment in transport infrastructure hasn’t been forthcoming. Challenging this is a key priority for me.
I have already met with the Leader of Suffolk County Council, Councillor Matthew Hicks to impress upon him the importance of the road for Ipswich and have a number of further meetings arranged over the next few weeks with other key stakeholders. Securing the investment for this road won’t be easy but my view is that we need to be ambitious in demanding Ipswich’s fair share when it comes to infrastructure investment.
I welcome the fact that in this year’s budget statement the Government have made £30 billion available for road upgrades across the country. East Anglia must get its fair share of this investment and a northern relief road for Ipswich must be near the top of the list of regional priorities.
I pledge to the people of Ipswich that over the coming years, as the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary candidate I will fight tooth and nail to get action on this issue! I strongly believe that I have the skills, drive and knowledge to make an impact.
Over the coming months I will provide regular updates regarding where I’m at regarding the campaign following the meetings I currently have in my diary.
When the first British women gained the right to vote in February 1918 celebrations were very muted because the Great War was still raging. Sylvia Pankhurst in her book The Suffragette Movement said: “the sorrows of the world conflict precluded jubilations”
So a century later we should celebrate the triumph as fully as we can. However women were not given the vote on the same terms as men until a decade after the act was passed – on 2nd July 1928 the Second Representation of the People Act was passed into law. In a cruel twist of fate, Emmeline Pankhurst the leader of the militant WSPU died on the 14th June 1928 just 18 days before equal suffrage rights were granted.
One victory led to another. The bar to women running for parliament was quickly removed, and the first female MP was elected that year (though, as an Irish republican, Constance Countess Markievicz chose not to join the Commons). The next year, Nancy Lady Astor was the first woman to take her seat in parliament.
Yet progress for women has often felt painfully slow. In 1982 when Harriet Harman was elected there were still only 19 female MPs. The 2017 election was the first time more than 200 women were elected, 208 out of 650 seats. If you speak to female MPs many worry about the murder of Jo Cox, the climate of vitriol on social media, sexual harassment and it is still so hard to balance child caring responsibilities with a political career hence women who have no children are often over-represented at the top.
Here in Ipswich Women’s Votes, Women’s Voices are a group of women’s organisations who have come together to plan a Festival on the 6th October at Suffolk University and are organising EqualiTeas as part of the events leading up to the festival. The festival will highlight and provide women with an opportunity to have access to local politics and democracy and to encourage women to get involved and most importantly to register to vote.
So true to the spirit of the suffragettes – who came from all kinds of political traditions – let us celebrate 100 years of the suffragette movement and all that achieved.
After the long awaited 20mph zone was given approval on 11 June, Cllr Lee Reynolds and I have been told that the final designs are currently being worked on before being implemented. We expect to see the scheme in operation early next year, after all the bureaucracy has been negotiated.
It’s a bit frustrating that the process has to be gone through, but at least we know it has been signed off and is going to happen – albeit after a few years of waiting!
Since the scheme was given the go ahead in June, Lee and I have received many calls from residents expressing approval at the news.
I am keen to hear your views on the Island at the end of Anglesea Road at its junction with Henley Road. Many people want this removed. What is your view?