Monthly updates from Laura Farris
MP for Newbury
Welcome from Laura
I recognise that for many of our school leavers August was a stressful month. Whilst there was never going to be a perfect method of grading students after exams were cancelled, the application of the algorithm to award results caused a great deal of disappointment and confusion. I am glad that this unsustainable outcome was rectified promptly and before GCSE and BTEC results were issued, though I continue to urge the Government to ensure BTEC results are not delayed any further.
My team and I were on hand to support young people as best as we could and I raised a number of cases with the Department for Education’s Ministerial team and universities directly. I hope I can reassure you that the vast majority of young constituents we helped have now secured their first-choice University places.
I would like to stress that I am continuing to press the Department of Education to confirm what measures will be in place for next year’s A-level and GCSE students who have effectively missed (or at least received a very compromised) term of study in the middle of their two-year courses. I was pleased to hear today that a consultation on this has been undertaken and will ask that its conclusions are publicised in due course.
I have been in contact with all of West Berkshire’s Secondary School heads over the summer and look forward to the full return of schools at the start of September. I am always available for any teacher, parent or pupil who has any education concerns they would like to discuss.
News for West Berkshire:
The ‘Eat out to Help Out’ scheme which ran through August has been a remarkable success here in West Berkshire and across the country. Many of you will recall Labour deriding it as a “meal deal voucher”. In fact, the Scheme has been used for 64 million meals, has given many of West Berkshire’s restaurants, pubs and cafes their busiest months ever and also boosted footfall on the high street with people returning to shops on their trips out.
West Berkshire has also received three important funding announcements this months:
1. The Government’s Build Back Better Fund has allocated £7.5 million to the Thames Valley. Of this, the first project to be green lit for funding is a 475 sq metre Renewable Resource Centre at Newbury College to train the engineers of tomorrow in installing energy efficient systems in homes and public buildings. This not only gives West Berkshire’s young engineers skill which are in particular demand, but I am particularly pleased that it puts our workforce at the heart of the green recovery in the South East.
2. The second part of this funding will go into full-fibre broadband for rural communities across West Berkshire. The priority is to ensure that all primary schools will receive gigabit connectivity. However an important secondary effect is that 1620 homes will benefit from superfast broadband, plugging many of the rural gaps in our digital infrastructure.
3. Finally, Highways England’s long-awaited investment into the A34 between Newbury and Oxford has been confirmed. Far too many people have lost their roads on this dangerous stretch as a result of blindspots, dangerous junctions and inadequate warnings. Since being elected, I have continued Richard Benyon’s work to secure this funding and will be working closely with Highways England to ensure that their investment targets the spots that matter. Whilst there is consensus as to some of the work, please feel free to contact me if you have ideas of your own which you would like me to relay.
In the Constituency:
Throughout August, Parliament has been in recess which has given me glorious uninterrupted time in the constituency. From microbreweries to manufacturing, I have been prioritising visits to local businesses hearing how they’ve survived the last five months, what Government support they’ve been able to access and what I can do as they look to the future. From business rates to skills, there is much I can do locally and in Parliament to support their success and I have already made a number of representations to the Treasury and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on their behalf.
On August 15th, I attended a ceremony in Newbury to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day. It was a special occasion because it was the only real opportunity we have had to meet as a community to commemorate the end of the Second World War, and it was my honour to lay a wreath in recognition of all those in West Berkshire who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
Finally, I have spent time with environmental organisations and local farmers discussing the landmark Environment and Agriculture Bills. I joined Charlotte Hitchmough from Action on the River Kennet to discuss water quality and wildlife in the river and it was truly amazing to see how transformative their work has been. They are tireless advocates for this important chalk streams and I urge you to look up their superb work here.