Schools and parliament have both begun our summer holidays, and as shadow secretary of state for education, I’m treating this as a double break! Being back in the constituency is always nice, it’s more relaxed, I have more control over my time, and it’s great to see friends and neighbours – at a safe social distance!
There’s still work to do, of course, and problems that need to be dealt with. On Friday, Cllr Jane Slater and I met healthcare assistants at Trafford General Hospital, along with representatives of their union, Unison. We were very concerned to hear that although they carry out (and have been trained for) a number of tasks that are supposed to be done by staff who are on Band 3 of the pay scale, in fact they’re only paid at Band 2. I’m really shocked that, at a time when we have all come to appreciate our NHS workers so much, they’re being treated in this way. I’m taking the matter up with hospital management, and Unison are fighting hard for them too.
Even though schools are now on holiday, meetings about school haven’t stopped. Cllr Karina Carter and I went to Stretford High to discuss with faith and community leaders and a local headteacher how to reassure parents that their children can return safely to school in September. Schools have been working flat out to get things ready, and put the necessary measures in place, because we all know how important it is to have children back in class at the start of the new school year. Over the summer, I’m also looking forward to hearing from parents about how they feel about the lockdown, how their children have coped, and what activities have been available to keep them occupied over the summer holiday. The government hasn’t done very much about this, it announced a tiny amount of money for holiday activities way back in January, but only enough to reach around 50,000 children. The long summer break always leads to a dip in children’s attainment, so good quality play and holiday schemes are really important to help them maintain some routine, and be more ready to learn when they go back to class. But this year, with many having been out of school for months, such programmes couldn’t be more crucial. I’m really dismayed at the lack of provision from government, and very grateful to local groups who are doing their best to lay on activities for our children and young people here.
One community group that is very busy at present are the Friends of Victoria Park in Stretford. Work is underway to erect their new community building and the Friends have been holding consultation events with local residents about what events people want to take place once the new building is open. I listened in to one (zoom) discussion about this – it’s interesting that people aren’t so keen on new ideas, they want more of what used to take place in the old building! Personally, I’ve always loved the activities in Victoria Park, such as the Christmas Fair, the Easter egg hunt, the summer picnic and Earth Hour, and so I tend to agree! When so much has been uncertain and unsettling in our lives in recent months, it’s nice to think that familiar times will return.
My double break over the summer is in fact going to be a triple break, as I’ll also be giving my blog a few weeks off! Please enjoy your summer, stay safe and well, and a very happy holiday to everyone who is taking time off too.