Marcus is pictured with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
One of the quirks of our Parliamentary system is that when an election is called all of the groups and committees, which do a huge amount of work in the background, technically cease to exist. It is frustrating but there is no easy solution to it – during an election period there are no MPs and everything has to be set up again afterwards.
Last week I reconstituted the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education. APPGs are a way for MPs of all political backgrounds to work together on issues about which they have a particular interest. There are certain rules that need to be followed when forming a group such as having members from other political parties in the officer core to ensure a really collaborative approach. I am pleased to say that the process went very well and we are now a group drawing on expertise of diverse members from various parties and also the House of Lords, including former teachers and members with experience in education policy.
Some APPGs look at very specific areas and some are temporary. For example I am a member of one set up to lobby the Government about Equitable Life. There are also other groups that deal with certain aspects of education but the one I am chairing is going to take a holistic approach and work on a number of areas which contribute to the overall wellbeing of our children.
I think all parents worry about the influence of social media and that is something that we will do some work on. Concern over ‘screen time’ is probably not something new but it’s very clear that we have entered an age where our children are potentially exposed to online influences and addiction to the immediacy and engagement of response via devices in a way that is new and which many parents feel unable to fully control. We need to do more to understand the addictive nature of software and social media and also the effects on concentration and overall mental health.
Whether it’s the effects of social media, too much homework or other factors, our children seem to be under pressure these days. My instinct is that time outdoors and exercise is a great way to counter this if possible but again that is something that I would like the APPG to explore with some proper research. Time to think and use their imagination is so important for children, as indeed it is for adults.
Another priority for us will be supporting T-levels and I am looking forward to seeing the opportunities that they can offer making a difference for young people in Somerset. If you have any thoughts on interesting areas for the group to work on then please do get in touch.