In the past fortnight I was very pleased to be invited to visit Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School and Northampton School for Boys to speak to some of the children and observe their new processes for dealing with Covid-19.
Opening schools has been vitally important because children’s education is obviously best achieved in a school setting. It is also important because returning to educational and childcare settings allows more families to themselves return to work.
I have been in regular communication with many of Northampton schools’ headteachers over the course of the last six months, and have visited all Northampton North schools many times over the years, so it was a pleasure to visit in-person once again, maintaining strict social distancing throughout.
I have worked hard with local schools in recent months, including by liaising with the Secretary of State for Education on behalf of Good Shepherd in order to expedite a delay in the issuing of free school meal vouchers, and by writing to the Department for Education on behalf of Northampton School for Boys in respect of financial support.
At Northampton School for Boys on this visit, I talked with the Politics sixth-form class, where I discussed my role as HM Solicitor-General, and I took questions on both politics and the law. I was very impressed by the students’ level of questioning and indeed their understanding of current affairs.
On my visit to Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School, I joined with a range of students of various age groups, where again I discussed politics and history, and the monarchy, which the pupils had a particular interest in. We discussed how I had facilitated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee proceedings in Parliament in 2012, commemorating her 60 years in office. You can read a 2012 BBC article relating to this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17452944
The discussion also gave me the opportunity to learn how the children had managed throughout the pandemic, and how they were finding the return to school.
These visits also gave me the opportunity to spend time with the schools’ headteachers, where I observed their respective Covid-secure arrangements, and discussed ways in which I could further help the schools in the months ahead.
School tours of Parliament remain suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions, but I look forward to welcoming Northampton North schools to Parliament once again, once circumstances allow.
Education is particularly high on the Government’s agenda and, next year (from 2021-22), every secondary school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil, and every primary school will be able to receive a minimum of £4,000.
The budget for schools will be increased by a total of over £14 billion over three years, rising to £52.2 billion by 2022-23. Indeed, Northamptonshire schools will receive £490.5m for 2020-21, which is a £30.7m – or 5.91% - increase from 2019-20.