Welcome to my September newsletter.
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 email@example.com. 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