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Time to tackle school bullying

Charter logoThe Good Childhood Report by The Children’s Society made for stark reading.

It found that children in England experienced the highest levels of emotional bullying out of the 15 countries surveyed. Half the children reported being left out by their classmates and 38 per cent said they had been hit by other children in the last month. Bullied children were more likely to have low self esteem than other children.

Those that had been bullied four or more times in the last three months were six times more likely to have low self esteem than those that had not. The myth that ‘bullying makes you stronger’ is just that.

Increasingly anti-bullying organisations are combining their efforts to ensure the bestAPPG framework is in place in schools. This includes the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into school bullying, which successfully ensured amendments in the Children and Family Bill to give greater recognition to bullying in schools. Debates have also taken place in both houses. Pictured right with Dame Esther Rantzen DBE.

But there is a long way to go to secure the change that is required, and the scale of the problem demonstrated in the Good Childhood report.

The effects of bullying leave deep emotional scars often into adulthood. King’s College Institute of Psychiatry commissioned a substantial study of over 7,700 people, who were born in 1958, who were bullied at 7 or 11 years old. The study then followed up with the participants until they were 50 years old.

The study found that the impact of bullying is still visible up to mid-life, four decades after people were bullied. Symptoms included depression, anxiety and a greater likelihood to have suicidal thoughts than those who had not been bullied.

The study also found a direct link between childhood bullying and poor outcomes in mid-life with health, social and economic consequences. This included lower educational levels, more likely to be unemployed, lower earnings. Those bullied were less likely to be in a relationship or to have good social network.

In this country there is a serious injustice that is taken place now, in 2015. Currently a child excluded for aggressive and persistent bullying may be transferred to alternative provision such as a pupil referral unit at a cost of between £16 and 23K per year.

However, if a child subjected to bullying behaviour – the victim – becomes school phobic there is little or no alternative provision available or offered. They leave school and receive little or no support becoming more and more depressed with a bleak academic future. How can this be right?

For a moment just imagine 750 secondary school classrooms empty week in, week out, all year round. Could you imagine the outcry, the headlines? Let me explain; there are over 16,000 between the ages of 11 and 15 missing education in England because of severe bullying (NatCen Report 2011).

This varies from name calling to  physical attacks to cyber bullying and many more besides. And the figure of 16,000 is likely to be an underestimate, as many local authorities do not record the reason for a parent withdrawing their child from school.

So 16,000 children translates into 750 classrooms. Can you imagine the lost potential? But because the numbers are spread across all schools no one notices.

These silent victims need people to stand up for them. Many organisations and people are; and I am adding my name to the call for action.

To be clear, as the Kings College study demonstrates that this is not a new situation. I have spoken to people across the spectrum of ages and backgrounds. Everyone I speak to knows someone who was bullied or was themselves.

Indeed the charity Red Balloon, which provides alternative educational provision for children that are school phobic due to bullying, has been operating for nearly 20 years.

You may ask how can it be possible for so many children to leave education?

Well it usually happens as a last resort. When the situation deteriorates (with the child no longer attending school due to becoming school phobic, and parents who may be threatened with being taken to court for allowing their child to truant) the worn down parents agree for their child to be managed off the school role and outside the formal education framework.

Schools can meet the educational inspection criteria for the support of self-excluding students who have been bullied by having work sent home, having a teacher assistant available or by enabling the student to access the curriculum online.

In some cases such measures work satisfactorily, but is satisfactory as a best outcome good enough?

The approach required must be twofold. First, to put in place the measures needed to actively reduce bullying in schools. When the Good Childhood report estimates that half of children experience some form of bullying and over a third on the receiving end of physical bullying in the last month, we owe it to the next generation to do something.

Second is to ensure that in the worst case scenario where a child self excludes that there is a safety net for children who can no longer attend mainstream education, with the aim of returning them to mainstream education once fully recovered.

APPG5Wishful thinking? The charity Red Balloon Learner Centre Group have a record of 95 per cent of severely bullied children who stay with them longer than six weeks returning to mainstream education and leading productive lives. Indeed this year RB-Norwich was deemed ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. Pictured with Dr Carrie Herbert MBE, President of the charity.

The parallel that I would draw is MRSA. Hospitals have made real strides in reducing infection rates, but in the worst case scenario ensure that the patient receives the treatment required. Why cannot the same principle be applied to bullied children?

The six-point approach that is needed;

  • Training for school staff and whole school programmes to tackle bullying.
  • Special educational needs status should be granted to severely bullied children too traumatised to attend school.
  • The educational needs of self-excluding bullied children must be met.
  • Alternative provision must be monitored.
  • Each LA and school must make it clear to parents/carers how the education of children self-excluding from school due to bullying is to be funded.
  • The DfE needs to state its policy on distance learning.

A more detailed exposition of the above six aims is detailed in my previous article.

In developing this article I am grateful to a number of organisations and people in the sector – especially to Red Balloon Learner Centre Group.

With anti-bullying week approaching next month the need for action is now.

Welcoming Lucy Frazer to Waterbeach

Lucy in Waterbeach sign 3I was pleased to welcome Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Lucy Frazer, to Waterbeach today.

We spent some time meeting local residents at a local public house, the White Horse, which was very helpful to listen to what people had to say. This was as part of a new idea I have commenced; which is to have ‘drop-in’ sessions to meet constituents.

In addition, we also ‘shopped local’ by having a nice lunch there!

Lucy Shop Local 1One of the major issues in Waterbeach is making Chapel Street road safety safer. Today I showed Lucy the issues on a site visit.

It was great meeting local business people including Janice at JB’s Hairdressers.

We, as a local Conservative team, will always fight to get the best deal for local residents.

I very much hope that Lucy will be elected as our new MP on May 7th. It will be an end of an era, with Sir Jim Paice retiring, but I believe Lucy will make a great MP for our area.

Business booming in creative industries

New figures show that Britain’s creative industries are worth a record £76.9 billion – further encouraging news on the health of our economy.

Our creative industries – from film to IT to product design – are recognised as world leaders around the globe and these figures show that they continue to grow from strength to strength.

In just two years we’ve seen over 100,000 new jobs created in IT and almost 30,000 new jobs in our design industry – jobs that are providing families with economic security and a pay packet at the end of the month.

These figures are a testament too to the importance of our long-term economic plan. It is vital we keep on the road to a stronger economy, helping our businesses create the jobs that Britain needs.

Saving Landbeach Tithe Barn

Picture1The Landbeach Tithe Barn is a wonderful building from the Tudor period. You may ask what a Tithe Barn is – put simply it was a building for the Parish Priest to receive 10% of local farmers produce.

Why is it so important to save the Landbeach Tithe Barn? Tithe Barns are now quite rare in the UK. It is difficult to know how many exactly remain. Estimates show at least 90%+ have of them have been converted, so somewhere in the region of 20 to 190 remain in the UK.

Tithe BarnThe Landbeach Tithe Barn one is the last remaining example in Cambridgeshire and the only one with its original brick floor. It is estimated it was built around 1527 – so is approaching it’s 500th anniversary.

The building is in need of restoration, which costs in the order of £50-£100k. The Landbeach Society who have had a lease on the building are not in a position to address this and so are rescinding their lease.

Certainly I have been doing my utmost to protect this part of our history.Tithe Barn seminar poster

This includes; (1) Giving a talk at the Landbeach Parish Council annual public meeting. (2) Attending three
District Council meetings. This was to secure more time to find a solution that does not mean the building being converted. (3) Taking part in media interviews – television, printed press and radio. (4) Being the opening and closing speaker at a workshop seminar which drew experts and interested parties for across the region. (5) Much behind the scenes work including meetings, telephone calls and emails. (6) Being tasked with setting up a trust.

To save the building from conversion we must found a Trust – so to raise the funds to maintain the building and thus secure it’s long term future. Already many people have come forward with an interest to be a trustee. Could you? Do you know someone that would?

I very much do hope that we can secure the long term future of this wonderful Tudor building for future generations.

Passing 2nd year of degree as a mature student


The many law books!

It really does not seem possible that I have already finished the second year of my Law Degree.

Nor does it that I have covered the following areas; Family Law, Law of Business Associations, Equity and the Law of Trusts, Law of Tort, European Union Law, Contract Law, Foundations of Criminal Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law & Legal Method and Skills.

I am delighted to have been formally contacted confirming that I have passed the second year – which I have to say is a relief!

When I started the degree I was not sure what to expect. Especially going back into education after a fifteen year break. Certainly getting back into studying and exams took a little while to get used to.

It really has opened up a whole new world to me, making many new friends along the way.

Much has been said about the new funding system for university students. I have to say if it was not for the new system I may well not be writing this article. The reason being the concept of upfront fees was a real barrier to undertaking a qualification. What if I did not enjoy the course? What if I could not get back into the academic flow to be successful in the course?

I will now enjoy the summer before meeting the challenge of the third year in October.

Campaign success – making A10 junction safer

Landbeach Milton junctionThe ‘A10 Safer Junction’s’ campaign has now had its first success with improvements starting on Monday (July 8th) at the Landbeach/Milton junction.  The petition campaign was well supported with over 1,200 people signing and was directly credited with starting the consultation process for improvements.

Two schemes were consulted on. The chosen design as pictured will take 8 weeks to complete. It will create a new pedestrian and cycle crossing on the A10 junction between Milton and Landbeach

The scheme is great news for pedestrians and cyclists as it will offer quick and direct path across the junction. It increases visibility of and for pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross.

One of the reasons we launched the campaign for action this and the Landbeach-Waterbeach junction wasLandbeach footpath junction both have a high accident rate. Once the improvements are in place we will see if further action is needed. Last year the Conservatives put a new cycleway and footpath between Milton and Landbeach (something the local community have wanted for decades) and this is an additional welcome step. Pictured with local campaigner Sarah Smart where the footpath currently ends.

To further aid safety solar stud lighting will be laid along the edges of the whole dual use path. New street lighting will be provided near the crossing points.

This latest success follows on from securing a reduced 50mph limit along the A10 and street lights and traffic lights at the Denny End junction.

Boosting apprenticeships for our youth

On Friday, the Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock MP, announced a new range of apprenticeships in subjects like aerospace that are being designed by employers. But even more that this, the Governments wants to hear from employers interested in designing their own apprenticeships.

Since 2010 there have been 1.8 million apprenticeship starts, which includes developing a simpler and more rigorous system which works for employers and apprentices.

In my view helping create opportunities and supporting our young people achieve their ambitions is crucial to driving social mobility.

It is also about a choice issue as it must and be recognised as the norm for young people to go into an apprenticeship or go to university, two equally prestigious routes into employment.

So far the Government has;

Given employers greater control over apprenticeship courses. We are getting employers involved in setting apprenticeships to make sure they give people the skills they need to get a job.

Improved the quality of apprenticeships. All apprenticeships now must involve meaningful on-the-job training, as well as English and Maths for young people who haven’t yet achieved good GCSEs in these essential subjects.

Made it easier for companies to take on a young apprentice. Offering £1,500 grants for businesses of up to 1,000 employees to take on new 16 to 24 year old apprentices if they haven’t taken one on in the last year.

There are record numbers of new apprenticeships. Since 2010 more than 1.8 million young people have started an apprenticeships. In 2012/13 alone there were over half a million apprenticeship starts whereas Labour never exceeded 280,000 in any given year.


Pothole fund for Cambridgeshire welcomed

Cambridgeshire is set to receive £1.9 million pounds as part of the Government’s £168 million pound dedicated pothole fund. Coupled with the winter repair fund equates to £3.5 million.

WinfoldThis is most welcome news. Road and path maintenance features as a regular key issue to local residents in Waterbeach Ward. Recently we have seen some success with the resurfacing work on Winfold Road that local campaigner Sarah Smart and I campaigned on during the local elections. Many additional roads like Old Cambridge Road in Waterbeach and School Lane in Chittering for example need to see action. Hopefully this money can support the much needed road improvements locally. Although I am a District Councillor I will continue to press on this County issue.

The latest announcement combined with existing plans will mean more than £24 billion spent on England’s strategic road network between 2010 and 2021 – the biggest investment in the road network for forty years.IMG-20140421-02516

Youth projects important role in reducing crime

WAY visitI was delighted that our Police Commissioner, Sir Graham Bright visited the Waterbeach and Landbeach Action for Youth (WAY) project yesterday. Pictured also with Shelagh Robertson, Chairwomen of WAY Trustees.

The project is a great example of how youth projects can reduce crime. The local Police have on numerous occasions credited WAY with the work that they do. For example last winter some empty houses were broken into as a meeting point, the Lead Youth Worker identified those responsible and action was taken against those involved.

It was clear from the meeting, that our Police Commissioner is very active in supporting youth projects and recognises the important work that they do for the good of the local area.

Personally I have organised three charity events for WAY which raised, in total, over £2,000. I will continue to work hard to support this great local project.





Funds raised to feed the ponies

On Saturday,shetland my partner and I were delighted to open our home to help raise funds for the Shetland Pony Welfare Trust.

It is a fantastic local charity based in Landbeach on Waterbeach Road. They are doing great work to take in ponies that have either experienced mistreatment or that their owners can no longer afford to keep. The SPWT is a growing charity that has taken on more ponies in recent times. They now care for a total of thirty five ponies. This means that running costs have now increased to £40,000 per year.

As we are now coming into the winter, this means that the ponies switch from grass to feed. From the event we raised enough money to buy two weeks worth of feed.

If you would like to learn more about the charity please visit the website or on facebook