I will use my education voice to support Ipswich schools and university
This week I was delighted to have been elected onto the House of Commons Education Select Committee.
As I've said before, one of the causes I'm most passionate about is trying to make sure that everything is done to ensure that those with special educational needs are given every opportunity to achieve their full potential. Sadly, this is often not the case.
Though I do not come from an educational background, and have no teaching experience (other than a brief spell running a debating class in an underprivileged school in Greater Manchester), I am someone who struggled at school with special educational needs.
Therefore, certainly when it comes to education for those with dyslexia and dyspraxia (two conditions I have) I have some idea about what works and what doesn't.
Having said this, inevitably there are significant gaps in my knowledge and understanding and I plan to learn as much as possible from those with significant experience in this area to ensure that as far as possible I can use my position on the education select committee to push for positive change for those who have special education needs who are not currently getting the support they need.
Already a number of different organisations and individuals locally have been in touch with me to share their experiences; please do get in touch if there is anything in particular you think I should be focusing on.
Deciding which Select Committee to put myself forward for wasn't straight forward. There were some other committees where perhaps my knowledge base was greater. However, on balance I decided to go for the committee I felt I had the greatest passion for.
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And for me this meant Education. I have a lot of learning to do fast, but rest assured I really have fire in my belly when it comes to this issue. I believe that given the right support having special educational needs can achieve great things. They can be above average achievers. However, if not given the right support their talents will be lost to society and sadly often they can go down the wrong route.
Having dyspraxia myself I know it's just the case that my mind is just wired a bit differently. This is the case for the vast majority of people with special educational needs. Therefore, clearly one to one support is crucial. Large class sizes are a challenge for all children but especially those with special educational needs.
When I was young, I really struggled with learning as part of a group and initially I didn't get any one to one support. It was only when I was taken out of my French classes and given dedicated one to one support with a superb learning support assistant that I turned the situation around and went on to become successful academically.
The reality is that some decisions that have been made at a national level that have often had negative consequences for those with special educational needs. Sadly, there have been unintended consequences as a result of some of the cut backs that have been made over the last decade to educational provision.
In Suffolk, significant improvements need to be made when it comes to the educational provision for those with special educational needs. However, I must say having already visited some of the alternative provision schools in the town I've been heartened by the dedication and passion shown by the educationalists I've met.
It goes without saying that my overriding priority in Parliament will also be serving the people of Ipswich. However, having a spot on the Education Select Committee does provide me with a real opportunity to make a positive contribution to the lives of millions of children across the country and I plan to take it.
I am also strongly of the view that I can use my position on the Committee to serve the interests of Ipswich. I will of course be pushing for the levelling up of schools funding so Suffolk schools do better out of educational spend than we have in the past and of course the Committee also oversees the Universities sector so no doubt there will also be opportunities to promote our own fantastic University of Suffolk.
The first meeting of the Committee will be over the coming weeks and I will keep you all updated with how it goes.