Tessa Munt said she was “pleased and encouraged” to hear yesterday’s announcement from the Leader of Somerset County Council that he has been forced “to listen to the people” and change his plan to close three local libraries. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week Tessa Munt conducted one of her eleven regular monthly advice centres, this time at Burnham Police Station. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, wants to replace EMA by finding a more targeted mechanism for supporting students from middle and lower income backgrounds. I have spoken to young people who are clear that EMA plays an important role for them, Read the rest of this entry »
I wish to declare an interest in that one of my children was in receipt of EMA to do A-levels at college, and I was very grateful for that help. I should also like to thank the Opposition for the opportunity to debate this matter.
I shall concentrate on the situation for the 655 students at Strode college in Street, the 1,813 students at Bridgwater college-41% and 50% of whom respectively are in receipt of EMA-and the 2,615 children living in poverty in the Wells constituency. I am grateful to Tom Strode-Walton, James Staniforth, the principal of Strode college, and Fiona McMillan, the principal of Bridgwater college, for the information that they have provided to me for this debate.
If students from disadvantaged backgrounds do not have the right help to access education for AS and A2-levels, there is no chance of them accessing university education until later in life. Strode college estimates that its students have claimed £500,000 in EMA this year. Bridgwater college surveyed its students and estimates that they have claimed in the region of £1.5 million.
The learner support fund at Strode college is currently £17,000, and at Bridgwater in this financial year it is £42,000. The Government propose to triple the current learner support fund for each college to address the loss of EMA to students from September 2011 onwards. That would mean that next year Strode college could expect £51,000, and that Bridgwater college could expect £126,000. It is difficult to understand how those colleges will make that funding stretch to meet students’ needs so that they can continue to fund their education.
The Minister should look to remove the main barriers to FE and HE. Many of the arguments that I would wish to make today have been rehearsed already, but in a rural area such as mine, one main barrier is transport to and from college. A county bus ticket in Somerset costs £600 a year. That is likely to increase as Somerset county council stops concessions for students-it will withdraw its subsidy in April-and as the various fuel price increases are included. Public transport in many rural areas is non-existent, and it is difficult for students to work because they cannot get home on public transport later in the evenings or at weekends, when there is a reduced service. A taxi fare from my village, which is four miles from the main town, is about £15 one way.
The mother of the twins Rhiannon, who wishes to be a vet, and Ayesha, who wants to be a psychologist, wrote to me last night. They live in a very rural part of my patch, and their mother is recovering from an illness. Consequently, they will be caught in a situation in which they have to pay £1,400 or £1,500 each year to get through college.
The other main expenses for which EMA is used have been mentioned: books, kit and clothing. Studying hairdressing at Bridgwater requires £200-worth of equipment. The equipment needed for plumbing, bricklaying, car mechanics and all the other trades is also extremely expensive. Chefs need knives; art and photography students need a constant supply of materials; and those on sports courses need clothing, footwear and equipment, none of which are cheap. Many other courses require textbooks and supporting literature, and all students need to cover those costs.
In my part of rural Somerset, there are several schools without any sixth forms: Whitstone school in Shepton Mallet, St Dunstan’s community school in Glastonbury, and Crispin school in Street. Students aged 17 and 18 will be required to stay on in full-time education or training from 2013 and 2015 respectively, and the choice of which school or college to attend must lie freely with the student. It is important that students are not required to attend their nearest A-level provider, as that could lead to their choices being limited. Year 11 students at Whitstone school, for example, might want to study a specific subject that means they will want to go to Frome college, Radstock college or Yeovil college, travelling 18 to 42 miles a day. It is important that future students have the ability to plan, budget and know exactly where they will be. For that reason, the Minister must address the issue of transport. I received advice from the Department for Transport this morning, saying that the local authority must provide home-to-school transport but that it has no legal requirement to help the over-16s, and that only 21% of local authorities use their discretionary powers to offer concessions, over and above the statutory requirements.
I ask the Secretary of State for Education to consider all the issues affecting my constituents in rural Somerset. EMA is not perfect; it needs to be reviewed. I am not wedded to it therefore, but I am sure that if we address the transport issues-
Many of the finest sites in England for wildlife and geology are National Nature Reserves. There are currently 224 across the country with 13 in Somerset and 50 in the South West. They provide great opportunities for people to experience nature. The first NNRs emerged in the postwar years alongside the early National Parks, and have continued to grow since then.
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Following up on her visit two years ago, local MP Tessa Munt returned for a visit to Somewhere House, a residential drug and rehab centre in Burnham on Sea. Read the rest of this entry »
Tessa Munt MP attended the recent extraordinary meeting of Glastonbury Town Council on 6th January to listen to the proposed closure of Glastonbury library which she is strongly opposed to. Read the rest of this entry »
Native woodland helps regulate air and water quality and aids flood management. Forests are a haven for important wildlife, rare flowers, our broadleaf trees, ferns, mosses and insects.
Tessa recently paid a further follow up visit to the Wells Thales site during the Christmas break to meet the Managing Director Vince Smith following the company’s reorganisation and the subsequent closure announcement of the Wells site in May 2010. Some of the employees at the Wells site will later this year be relocating to the site in Templecombe. Tessa wanted to get an update on how the moving plan was going since her last visit at the end of the summer.