Last week I was pleased to be elected a Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education. There are APPGs for many issues in Parliament and I am involved with some including the ones on Knifecrime and Equitable Life. They bring MPs from both sides of the House together to run enquiries into issues in a non-combative way and can make very useful contributions to policy. At my first session at Education APPG we discussed future priorities which will include a study into how physically active children are at school and what effect that has on various aspects of their education. I would also like us to come back to a theme of a recent evidence session where experts discussed the links between school exclusions and crime.
My other main priority is to address some of the funding issues that schools have been experiencing. Government spending on schools is higher than it has ever been but we need to make sure that it keeps pace with demands and is fair on us in Somerset.
I recently voted against the Government’s new regulations for Relationships and Sex Education in schools and there has been some slightly misrepresentative reporting of this issue.
Areas such as this are challenging as parents and the Government both share a duty of care for our children and it is not always completely clear where the boundaries lie. I am certainly all for teaching the importance of inclusivity, kindness and tolerance, that it is okay to feel and be different, and that we should love each other for who we are.
Where I disagreed with the legislation is that the concept of 'age appropriateness' is so subjective and I think could lead to increased pressure on teachers and potentially inappropriate teaching taking place. This is particularly so as children grow up in different ways and not all at the same speed and so even within a particular class it may be that some subjects are not appropriate for everyone. For example, I am particularly concerned about teaching ‘gender fluidity’ to very young children with the potential to confuse them. As there was no chance of the RSE proposals not passing it was an opportunity to express concern about this one aspect.
Generally I am in favour of choice within our school system and empowering teachers to reflect the needs of their pupils as they see them; they are the professionals with the training and experience. There can be a risk that we centrally impose too many guidelines.
It's an issue that I will continue talking to teachers and parents about, as well as the Department of Education. As a parent myself these are things I think about a lot and am certainly keen to hear other views.
As always, if you would like to get in touch to tell me what you think about these issues, if I can help with a problem you me have or if you would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries across the constituency please do call 01935314321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.