After a whirlwind week in my new role as shadow secretary of state for education, it was good to be back home in the constituency for the weekend. I particularly wanted to get back in time to be at Trafford General Hospital, birthplace of the NHS, to mark its 72nd birthday on Sunday. Trafford Labour leader Cllr Andy Western and I joined doctors from the Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons UK, along with nursing and other staff from Trafford General, to honour the health and care workers who’ve lost their lives to Covid while caring for others. It was a very poignant and moving event.
I was also keen to get back for the full reopening of one of my very favourite local restaurants, Samir’s in Stretford. Samir has been running a takeout service during the lockdown, but it’s much more fun to be in his restaurant. Welcome back Samir, and all our other local businesses who reopened at the weekend!
I really needed the time at home to recover from what had been a frantically busy week. The secretary of state announced on Thursday that all pupils must return to school in September. I agree that children must be back in school – the long gap in learning will have had a particularly serious effect on the most disadvantaged students – but I had a lot of questions to ask about the logistics. It’s ridiculous that guidance to heads has only just been issued three weeks before the end of the summer term, and without much of the detail filled in, leaving them to get on with it as best they can. Heads, teachers and school staff have been working flat out since February half term, and they desperately need a break over the summer. Meanwhile, summer holiday provision looks set to be very patchy across the country, and my colleagues and I are becoming increasingly fearful that many nursey schools may have become unviable during the lockdown period, and may close altogether. It’s a worrying picture.
I’m still getting my head round my new brief, and so it was very useful last week to be able to have informative conversations with some of the education unions – I’ll be having more meetings with education experts this week. Many heads, teachers, lecturers and governors from across the country have also been in touch to offer their help and advice, and I’m very grateful to all of them, and especially to my many constituents who have enormous knowledge of and expertise in education. I’m also very pleased to report that I’ve recruited a second policy adviser to work in my Westminster team – I look forward to having Joe join me this week to work alongside my colleague Nick (who’s been an absolute tower of strength during my first hectic week in the role).
Finally, a big thank you to climate campaigners from the constituency who joined me in a zoom call last Tuesday to discuss the climate emergency. Just because we’re in a covid crisis doesn’t mean the climate crisis is no longer important – indeed, getting the right solutions for the planet are also going to be key to our social and economic recovery from covid. I was also pleased to be able to jon a call with the Independent Office for Police Conduct and local community campaigners for an update on the inquiry into the taser incident that took place recently in Stretford. It’s disappointing to hear that the results of the inquiry might not be known for months, and I will be keeping in close contact with the IOPC to urge the swiftest possible progress.