This week I hope to be able to deliver my ‘maiden speech’ in Parliament. I am honoured by the support of the people of High Peak to be able to have such an opportunity. Someone commented on my Facebook page: “I can’t believe that one of our school-run mums has been elected to Parliament!”. I have four children and for 20 years I have been a school-run mum. Nurseries, schools and education have been an important part of my life. Now I am determined to bring the views of High Peak’s school-run parents to Parliament and speak up for the places that are so often at the heart of our communities.
My two youngest boys started out at Combs Infants, a village school of 25 children and in quite an isolated valley. It’s a school that engages with the community and brings life and vitality to a hamlet with many elderly residents. Harvest festivals, assemblies, plays, beetle drives, quizzes and school fairs all brought the village residents of every generation together. In High Peak we have many examples of how excellent schools and nurseries are not just places for education but are also at the centre of community life. For our rural areas in High Peak I think these schools and nurseries become even more important to preventing isolation and loss of a sense of togetherness.
In my maiden speech I want to highlight the effect that the Government’s underfunding is having on our schools and nurseries in High Peak. Chapel-en-le-Frith’s outstanding secondary school is to lose the equivalent of 15 teachers – £600,000. Combs Infant School has only two teachers but they stand to lose one of them and £20,000 of funding. It seems that under this Government schools are punished for their success rather than rewarded.
It is not just schools but nurseries too. In September the Government promised to provide 30 free hours for over-3’s but they are not providing the necessary funding. This is causing several nurseries in High Peak to consider whether they can keep going at all. Over half of nurseries are saying they simply cannot afford to provide the 30 hours without adequate funding. It just doesn’t add up.
So I will raise in my speech to Parliament what is happening to schools and nurseries in High Peak. I will urge the Government to re-think their nursery underfunding and school cuts before we end up with fewer nursery places and fewer children able to get the best head-start at school. Before we end up losing these places where children and adults alike learn to work together, how to create, make friends and build strong communities.