As you may know, education is very important to me. As a Conservative I believe that education is the key to social mobility, something that is close to my heart as the daughter of a lorry driver who started work aged 16 in Greggs bakery. As a mother I am grateful that Yorkshire can boast such fantastic schools and I am proud that young people in Yorkshire will receive the level of education they deserve and that will ensure they are able to fulfil their dreams.
Recently I met with both senior members of staff and students at Outwood Grange Academy to discuss their views on the relationship between discipline and education. I believe that discipline is important in any walk of life, particularly in education, where the minds of the future are moulded.
I am happy that both the students and staff at Outwood Grange Academy shared this view. Students who on that day were in the “consequences room” told me that despite being punished themselves they believed the system was fair and worked well to ensure that everybody was able to achieve lesson objectives. I came away from this visit with the feeling that students felt reassured by the structure they received at the school, and even if they themselves were punished they felt this was fair.
In our schools it is equally important to praise and reward good behaviour. Many of the students I spoke with felt that praise, alongside discipline, helped to propel their learning and promote good behaviour. Speaking with staff it was clear that this combined approach helped students of all backgrounds and abilities achieve their best possible educational outcomes and strong exam results.
Strong exam results drive social mobility, and it was a joy to hear the aspirations of students and to know that, thanks to the outstanding levels of education on offer in our local area, these aspirations will more than likely be met.
More help for mental health is another priority of mine. Having visited the majority of schools in our area, I have seen first-hand that, for students who suffer with mental health issues, a consistent structure needs to go hand in hand with a strong awareness of those health issues and pastoral and special educational needs (SEN) support.
Recent progress on the Government’s Green Paper for Transforming children and young people’s mental health is heartening. After a 13-week public consultation, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education published their response. Delivery of two of the programme’s main commitments are due to come online by the end of 2019.
I am happy that the programme will establish new Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs), which will focus on early intervention to reduce exam stress or resolve behavioural difficulties and friendship issues. Finally, the programme will trial a four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services, which builds on the expansion of NHS services already underway in this area.
In addition, the policies of the new incoming government could change things further. At the time of writing, the leadership contest was still in full swing. Boris Johnson, should he win the leadership contest, has pledged to raise the secondary per-pupil funding floor and has pledged an extra £4.6 billion to secondary schools per year by 2022-23.
The Conservative Party is the party of aspiration, education and the family. We will seek to secure the best funding arrangements for our children, and I will always fight for strong discipline in schools as well as proper support for children with special educational needs. I believe that is something we can all support.