Prior to becoming Chair of the Education Select Committee and in my previous post as Minister of State for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Careers at the Department of Education, I had run numerous successful campaigns in relation education. You can read about all these campaigns below and follow the links in bold for more information.
I used my Maiden Speech in 2010, the first time I was able to speak in the House of Commons, to talk about the importance of apprenticeships to our skills shortage. Since then, I have spoken numerous times, both in the House and to the press, to champion apprenticeships and the opportunities that they give our young people.
In 2011, I spoke to FE Week about my story and passion for apprenticeships and in 2013, I wrote a piece on apprenticeships for Conservative Home, titled New policies for Popular Conservatism – Apprenticeships. In 2015, I commissioned a report by Demos on apprenticeships which you can read here.
You can also all read the questions I have asked on apprenticeships in the chamber since I became and MP here:
My Parliamentary Apprentices
Shortly after kicking of my campaigning for apprenticeships, I decided I needed to put my money where my mouth was and hire one myself. I am very proud that I was the first Member of Parliament to ever hire an apprentice in Parliament in 2010 and I’m now in the middle of hiring my forth!
My apprentices have been featured in the national press over the years including in The Guardian and The Express and the Federation of Small Businesses. I also did a very interesting interview, conducted by my third apprentice, Aaron Farrell, with Total Politics.
Parliamentary Academy Scheme
Alongside The Creative Society, I set up the Parliamentary Academy which was the first apprentice school in Parliament. The scheme aims to broaden access to Parliament and politics by giving young people a paid apprenticeship and a recognised qualification.
It is open to individuals between the ages of 16-24 who are non-graduates. They are placed with MPs from all political Parties for a 12 month scheme that combines working in the Westminster office of an MP and receiving training from a college.
You can read more about the Parliamentary Academy Scheme or apply for an apprenticeship in Parliament here.
A Society of Apprenticeships and an NUS Cards for Apprentices
Shortly after becoming an MP, I started arguing for the value of apprenticeships to be recognised and appreciated. One practical way I found to do this was to campaign for a Society of Apprenticeships to be set up to work with or be of the same stature as the NUS.
I started off by fighting for apprentices to have their own NUS discount card. In 2011, I tabled an early day motion on this and then wrote about my idea for Conservative Home here and here. You can read the questions that I asked in Parliament on this issue here and here too.
As a book lover myself, I am particularly passionate about literacy rates and it is an issue I have raised in Parliament, which you can read here and here. I Co-Chaired the All-Party-Parliamentary-Group for Literacy when they commissioned a report with the National Literacy Trust looking into literacy rates particularly with young males. I also launched a local campaign to raise awareness of and tackle literacy rates in Harlow where still to this day, I visit primary schools and read the first few chapters of Narnia to the pupils.
I have had a lot of involvement with Further Education in my constituency, and have always had a good relationship with our outstanding local college, Harlow College. As often as I am able to, I hold constituency surgeries at the College to hear the concerns and feedback from students there.
I took my predecessor, Nick Boles MP, and Vicky Ford MEP to visit the college to show them the great work the staff and pupils do there and discuss the benefits of training and apprenticeships.
Most recently, I organised for the US Ambassador to the UK to visit the college and hold an interactive lecture there. There was great feedback from the students and teachers on the session who found the session really interesting and valuable. It was a pleasure to introduce the Ambassador to the students who gave really intelligent and thoughtful contributions to the debate.
I also hosted an event in Parliament for the 10 Further Education Colleges in the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor. I hosted the event to promote a strong working relationship between the Colleges and the region’s key businesses. I also encouraged the Colleges need to ensure that they deliver the right skills and the right type of training to meet local employers’ needs and I was very pleased that they were taking the initiative to work collaboratively to ensure this.
Free School Meals for Further Education Students
One of the biggest and most successful campaigns that I’ve ran over the last few years has been to secure free school meals for students studying at colleges. Before I got this changed, their was a loophole that meant that poorer students studying at school sixth forms were eligible for the free meals, but those studying elsewhere at colleges weren’t.
I worked with the Association of Colleges on their No Free Lunch? campaign which was picked up by ITV News. I was very pleased when the campaign paid off and wrote a piece for Conservative Home about it. I was honoured to receive the Spectator’s Campaigner of the Year Award that year too for running a successful campaign on this as well as the fuel duty freeze.
You can read some of my questions to Parliament during my campaign for Free School Meals here:
University Technical Colleges
I am a big supporter of the Sir Charles Kao University Technical College in Harlow. I spent over two years working with local businesses, Harlow College and Anglia Ruskin University to persuade the Government to invest in this Pre-Apprentice School, and I was overwhelmed with pride when it was opened in September 2014. The school focuses on med-tech, engineering and computing and is open to students aged 14 to 19. BBC News reported on their opening here.
I organised for the UTC in Harlow visit Google Campus in London. The students were the first in the country, after the pilot program, to take part in Google’s new Future Founders programme. The program aims to inspire and equip the next generation of social entrepreneurs. It was wonderful to have been able to bring the students from Harlow to Google Campus. The UTC is all about technology, engineering and vocational education and Google Campus is a great example of what the future can hold for their students.
I recently did an interview with University Technical Colleges about why I got behind the UTC programme. You can read it in full here.
I have spoken in many debates in Parliament on the value of UTCs which you can find via the links below: