Visiting Earlsfield Primary, I saw first-hand how universal free school meals are working to produce a level playing field in schools and provide all children with a delicious and nutritious lunch.
Lunch should never be a struggle for families or a time of stress and stigma for children – and Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s funding means it won’t be here in London.
The verdict from the judges that matter: the Red Velvet cake with beetroot was a hit.
Congratulations to all the students who have received their A level results – and to the teachers, staff and schools that have helped get them there.
Whether our students are going on to university, apprenticeships, further training, or joining the workforce, they have all made us proud with their hard work, dedication and resilience.
This year was particularly challenging. For many pupils, this was their first experience of exams in a formal sense, after GCSEs were suspended during the pandemic. Grade boundaries were also raised to return to 2019 levels.
However, our students and schools excelled, with a number of Tooting schools exceeding the London average of 30% A*-A grades – itself a pass rate that is the highest in the country. London schools are still benefitting from the London Challenge investment of the last Labour government.
Our Tooting students and our Tooting schools and staff are something to celebrate.
We are so proud of you.
There is a crisis in our universities up and down the country, with record numbers of students now seeking mental health support, according to our latest research. Through Freedom of Information requests, we found that over 200,000 students sought support for their mental health across the UK in 2020-2021 – a threefold increase, since 2010. The lack of mental health support for our young people is not only affecting their health, but it also having a knock-on impact on their future prospects.
Universities are struggling to cope with the rising demand for access to the mental health treatment students need. Every five days, a student takes their own life.
That is why Labour has put forward a comprehensive plan, that will put prevention of the heart of mental health services. Under Labour’s plan, we will recruit 8,500 new mental health professionals by the end of our first term in office, to see an addition one million patients per year.
See more about the crisis in mental health at universities, here: https://twitter.com/DrRosena/status/1579388728153604098?s=20&t=CcG6Wxm1iHr6xo0Cfsjyww
Teachers and school teams are doing a phenomenal job, and I know that digital poverty is a real worry for them, as well as for families across Tooting. Early on in the pandemic, Labour called for a set of measures that would see a mass roll-out of devices and internet access to students currently struggling to learn online, alongside steps such as ‘zero-rating’ of educational websites to ensure data charges are not putting barriers on access to education during lockdown.
The digital divide risks failing a generation. I am so pleased to have been able to help close this gap.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic I have been inundated with emails from parents, school staff, students, and residents alike who have taken the time to outline their views on school closures. Some are concerned about safety, with many teachers and students facing the very real and grave possibility of bringing the virus home to vulnerable family members. Some are concerned about the impact a further lockdown could have on children's wellbeing and their education. And some are concerned about the challenges school closures will cause for working families.
As I am sure you will agree, the current situation is incredibly serious. This virus is spreading exponentially across the country, many people are in hospital, and too many people are tragically losing their loved ones.
We know how difficult another lockdown will be, but I believe that national measures are necessary.
As the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and a working mother, it is safe to say the impact of extended school closures on children’s well-being and working families cannot be overstated. This is why Labour called on Government to do everything possible to avoid it.
Boris Johnson must immediately set out clear plans for every child to return safely to school as soon as possible - and be honest with parents about the timetable for this.
It is also critical that young people’s education is safeguarded throughout this period of remote learning, and every student must have access to the devices they need to learn. Schools and families can request free mobile data increases for students without broadband or who cannot afford extra data for devices. More information on this scheme can be found here: get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/about-increasing-mobile-data.
It is vital the Government prevent disadvantaged families being priced out of education.
As many families will agree, working parents face huge challenges in balancing work, childcare, and supporting their child’s education. They must have the support they need to do this. Nobody should have to choose between their job and supporting their children, so the Government - and employers - must clearly promote the use of the job retention scheme for those unable to work due to family commitments.
Please rest assured that myself and Labour Party colleagues will continue to hold the Government to account on these issues as we all navigate the ongoing pandemic.