Over the last month it has been wonderful to meet and catch up with so many people around the constituency. I wanted to visit as many villages as possible during the summer, so I have been to Ide Hill, Sundridge, Brasted, Riverhead, Dunton Green, Weald, West Kingsdown, Halstead, Knockholt, New Ash Green, Underriver, Shoreham and Badgers Mount. Many of my conversations during these visits centred upon the effect of the pandemic on local businesses and communities, and how, despite these difficult times, everyone has pulled together to support each other. I thank everyone who has taken time out of their day to come and talk with me, as well as those who have accommodated me during a visit. I am looking forward to raising many of the issues discussed on my return to the House of Commons this week.
I know for many students, teachers and parents the last few weeks have been particularly difficult. While pupils across Sevenoaks and Swanley have done us all proud with their fantastic results, I do not underestimate how stressful it has been for everyone involved. Over the last few weeks, I have been working with pupils, schools, colleges and universities to help assist with appeals, universities placements or school/college queries. Please do contact me if you need help or advice.
What is clear to me is that we must do everything humanly possible to ensure exams never, ever, need to be cancelled again. Part of that is the important drive to ensure every child is back in school for the start of the new term. This must be a national priority.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been clear that the risk to children of becoming severely ill from coronavirus is low. We also know that children’s health and wellbeing suffer when they are not in the classroom. Schools are a vital point of contact for public health and safeguarding services and the return of all children is vital to minimise, as far as possible, the longer-term impact of the outbreak on their education, wellbeing and wider development.
From speaking with headteachers across the constituency, I know the hard work all our local schools have put in to ensuring the right protective measures are in place. I have also been in close contact with the Schools Minister and am reassured that the Government guidance to help schools get ready is comprehensive and coherent. While much of the process of returning to school will be the same, the environment will feel a bit different. There may be one-way systems in place, hand sanitiser in some classrooms and staggered movement and lunchtimes. I am sure this will feel strange at first, but they are all measures designed to keep staff and pupils as safe as possible and reduce transmission of the virus.
Nothing can replace being in the classroom, and together we must now ensure pupils across Sevenoaks and Swanley are given the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential. The past few months have been such an uncertain time and I’m sure there will be parents reading this who are worried about what September will bring. But I want to reassure you the benefits returning to the classroom far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus for the majority of children. Going back to school this year is more important than ever and should you have any concerns regarding sending your children in, please do not hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. My team and I are here to support you all.
Thank you all for your continued support, and if there is somewhere you think I should visit in the coming weeks please do get in touch.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
Below is a snapshot of what we have been working on. If there is anything, I can do to support you, please get in touch.
- Welcomed the news that Sevenoaks District Council, having already committed £4m for the Meeting Point project in Swanley, had successfully secured £1.49 million as part of the Prime Minister’s Getting Building Fund. The project, which is shovel-ready, will include provision of a new business hub and 17 new homes – as well as restoring the town's high street frontage and footfall. With a strong environmental and sustainability ethos, the project represents exactly the type of investment I am keen to encourage across the constituency, and I hope the announcement will lead to further confidence in the town.
- Successfully petitioned the Roads Minister to intervene on the decision regarding the A21 south of the constituency. Originally, Highways England announced an upgrade was due to commence in 2025. The road plays a critical role in controlling traffic across Sevenoaks and many of our local villages, and it was important that there was no delay. I am delighted the Minister listened to our concerns. The planned improvements, which will now be completed five years earlier than proposed, means local residents can continue to use the road knowing it is safe for both motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
- Alongside South East MP colleagues, wrote to Dame Melanie Dawes, Chief Executive of Ofcom, to highlight concerns about cuts by the BBC to local news. Local news reporting is hugely significant and indeed many of the regional news programmes across Kent and the South East are amongst the most popular. The proposed cuts by the BBC are incredibly concerning and I look forward to receiving Ofcom’s response before any irreparable steps are taken.
- Joined Matt Chorley on Times Radio to talk about my upcoming Private Members Bill – the only way backbench MPs can introduce legislation. The Bill creates a duty for businesses who administer Botox or cosmetic fillers to ensure that they do not treat any person under 18, and that all procedures are overseen by a registered medical practitioner. Victims have been left with rotting tissue, lip amputations, and its estimated 200 people have gone blind. This cannot continue. My Bill will be discussed in the House of Commons in October, and I look forward to working with cross-party MPs to ensure the necessary changes are made to the current regulations.
- Drove forward my four-point plan to tackle antisocial behaviour in Sevenoaks. This plan seeks to increase police officers on our streets, take action on unauthorised traveller sites, increase CCTV and resuming evictions for bad behaviour. I am working closely with Kent Police, Sevenoaks District Council Official and our local Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to address the issues and achieve the above changes.
- And finally, following the huge success and growth of the pop-up Invicta Summer Academy, which has been providing lessons across Key Stage 1 – 4 throughout August, it was an honour to join the pupils in their final week to speak on social change, as well as thank all the teachers for taking part. Lost teaching time cannot be rectified overnight – but initiatives such as the Invicta Summer Academy have undoubtedly made a huge difference for children and families.
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