As reported in the Barnsley Gazette and Barnsley Chronicle on 15th December, 30 per cent of all junior-age pupils in Barnsley are taught in class sizes of 31 according to figures blasted by Barnsley East MP Stephanie. She has challenged the government this week over the figures which show in primary schools at both key stage one (infants) and key stage two (juniors) class sizes in Barnsley are higher than the national level.An average of 28 pupils are in each Barnsley key stage one class, rising to 28.4 for key stage two - the second highest in Yorkshire and Humber and higher than the national average of 27.7. But almost 3,000 Barnsley primary pupils are being taught in class sizes of 31 or more. While the average class size in key stage two in Barnsley is 28.4 pupils per class, a shocking 29.4 per cent of all key stage two pupils (seven to 11-year-olds) are taught in classes of 31 or more, compared to just 17.5 per cent nationally. And in Barnsley 156 pupils are taught in classes of 36 or more - more than four times as many as across the country. Speaking in the House of Commons, former teacher Stephanie questioned Education Secretary Justine Greening on the figures, and outlined the detrimental impact this could have on pupils.“Once again, young people in Barnsley are being forced to make do with conditions worse than others,” she said. “With schools witnessing unprecedented funding cuts and an exodus of hardworking teachers because of increasing workloads and a pay cap, children in Barnsley are finding themselves in excessive class sizes.“As a former teacher I’ve seen first-hand how important it is that children learn in good size classes.“I challenged the government on this issue in Parliament, and they should urgently set out how they intend to address Barnsley’s oversized classrooms.”
The story of our town’s mining heritage is one we’re all familiar with and proud of. Our community was part of the industrial backbone that powered a nation, and our county’s success owes so much to hard-working miners at the heart of the industry. They put up with terrible conditions for years, and many now suffer debilitating illnesses for their troubles – while the rest of us were able to heat our homes and keep the lights on thanks to their hard work. That’s why we’ll always owe them a debt of gratitude, and remain proud of our mining heritage. But gratitude only gets you so far. It doesn’t put money in the bank or food on the table for those former miners who are now struggling to get by. They deserve remuneration as well as respect, and we can start by addressing the pension scheme many of them rely on for retirement. Because it’s appalling to see those who suffered under Thatcher now getting treated with similar disrespect by another Tory government. Under the terms of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS) agreed in 1994, in a year that more money goes into the scheme than is paid out, the extra can be split between miners and the Government. Using the small print of this deal, the Government has now taken over £3.4bn out of the scheme. Despite helping themselves to this money, the Government hasn’t made a single contribution over that period. That’s £3.4bn taken away from miners who spent their lives working hard to build up a pension pot for their retirement, including thousands here in Barnsley. Money that could be spent on food, bills, or the cost of living with the health problems so many former miners experience as a direct result of their life’s work. But instead it’s money that has been taken away from them. And that’s just not fair or right. I’ve met with the MPS Trustees to discuss the existing arrangements, and this week I pressed for a fairer scheme when we discussed it in Parliament. We owe former miners better, and it’s time we gave them the retirement they’ve earned.
As featured in the Huffington Post on December 6th, Stephanie outlined her anger after revealing top Tories have delayed the roll-out of the disastrous Universal Credit policy in their own constituencies, despite enforcing it on Barnsley since July. You can read the full article here.
As reported in the Daily Mirror and Barnsley Chronicle, on December 2nd Stephanie revealed that the Tories are secretly pausing the disastrous roll out of Universal Credit in Theresa May’s constituency. They are also delaying the benefits shake-up in the constituencies of a string of top Tories, including that of Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke , under fire First Secretary of State Damian Green and UC’s architect Iain Duncan Smith. The announcement was slipped out the day after Chancellor Philip Hammond refused to pause the programme in the rest of the country. Stephanie, whose constituents in Barnsley East are struggling with the impact of UC, said: “The very people who dreamt up the whole idea and made such a mess of it are putting off the consequences in their own seats. It’s one rule for them, another for the rest.” Last week the Government caved in to pressure to cut the waiting time for first payments from six to five weeks. But it will be too late for struggling families at Christmas as the change will not come in until February. The move means that all three Work and Pensions Secretaries who designed and implemented the Universal Credit across much of the country will all see it delayed for their own seats - until the reduced waiting time and other reforms are in place. The government has consistently refused to "pause and fix" the scheme which has seen families pushed in to debt and rent arrears - despite losing a vote called by the Labour Party to do so. The document titled “Universal Credit Transition Rollout Schedule” was published on the DWP website the day after the budget, replacing a previous version. It lists the point at which UC will be rolled out in each JobCentre. However, an analysis of the new timetable for, comparing it to the previous rollout schedule, showed that Maidenhead, Ashford, Hemel Hempstead, Walthamstow and Redbridge Job Centres Plus will all now delay the roll out by three months. These cover the bulk of the constituencies of Maidenhead, Ashford, South West Hertfordshire and Chingford and Woodford Green. Only South Oxhey, a small, working class and generally Labour-voting area of David Gauke’s constituency will continue to have Universal Credit imposed on time. The other Job Centre Plus in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which serves Labour seats rather than Iain Duncan Smith’s seat, will implement UC earlier. When questioned on the decision in parliament David Gauke told MPs: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a way that is safe, we are making adjustments as and when we need to but I am pleased to say the date on which UC will be fully rolled out remains unchanged March 2022 if it could be earlier I would make it earlier but that is the safest point at which we can do it.” Stephanie Peacock had asked the minister: “I note in his department’s recent statement last week the right honorable gentleman postponed the rollout of Universal Credit in his constituency and those of the prime minister and the first secretary of state. “As he’s in the mood to reconsider the policy, can he do the same and pause the rollout of Universal Credit for the people of Barnsley East?”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport, on Wednesday 6th Stephanie recently visited a foodbank collection point in Hoyland, to encourage donations and raise awareness. Located at the Tesco in Hoyland, the collection point gives shoppers the chance to add extra items into their shopping trolleys before donating them to the foodbank on their way out. Tesco has also promised to give an extra 20 per cent on all products donated by the public. Foodbank usage in Barnsley has increased over recent years, and the foodbank in Wombwell alone gave out 4,256 three-day emergency food parcels last year. This rise is replicated across the country, with the number of people dependent on the emergency food packages increasing 7 per cent since last year. The local MP (pictured) visited the collection point to encourage shoppers to donate items, and raise awareness of the many people in Barnsley who are dependent on foodbanks to keep food on their table. Stephanie commented: “It was wonderful to see such kindness and generosity in our community as people gave so much to those less fortunate than themselves. “But particularly at this time of year, it’s a scandal that people still require the use of foodbanks to put food on the table. And their use is only increasing, including here in Barnsley. “Until the Government acts to end the appalling dependency on foodbanks, I encourage everybody to contribute where possible and ensure nobody here in Barnsley goes hungry over Christmas.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle, on November 30th Stephanie called for urgent action from the Government after recent figures revealed Barnsley has one of the lowest levels of social mobility in the country. In their annual ‘State of the Nation’ report, the Social Mobility Commission described a stark postcode lottery for social mobility in Britain, identifying Barnsley as one of the worst areas in the country. Whilst London is pulling away, the Commission found ‘coldspots’ for social mobility, including former industrial communities. In areas of London such as Kensington and Chelsea, for instance, around 50 per cent of disadvantaged young people go on to university. However, this figure falls to around 10 per cent in Barnsley, one of the lowest levels in the country. Said Stephanie: “These figures paint a damning picture of the appalling levels of social mobility inequality in the UK. “A record of Tory failure has led to a stark postcode lottery, where the place you are born can determine your life chances. “Children born here in Barnsley are simply not provided with the same opportunities in life as those lucky enough to be born in places like Chelsea and Kensington. “This is unacceptable, and children should all have the chance to succeed in life no matter where they are born. “I’m demanding urgent action from the Government to address this scandalous imbalance, and make sure every child in Barnsley is given the best opportunity to succeed.”
As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 24th November, Stephanie outlined her thoughts on apprenticeships and the importance of offering young people apprenticeship opportunities. She took the opportunity to offer her own apprenticeship, to work in her busy constituency office. You can read the full column here.
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 24th November, Stephanie outlined her thoughts on the upcoming community poll. She commented on the importance of securing a devolution deal, her support for Barnsley Council's decision to let the public decide, and her backing for the One Yorkshire deal. You can read her full comments here.
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley News and Sport, Stephanie has condemned the budget as a plan that does nothing to address the key issues facing people in Barnsley. Despite the Chancellor announcing a number of policies, Ms Peacock (pictured) suggests these ignore the needs of people Barnsley and fall way short of what is needed. She said: “This budget does nothing to address the real issues affecting people here in Barnsley. “It fails to tackle the huge challenges facing our social care system, and the £2.8bn offered to the NHS falls way below the £4bn it desperately needs. “The Chancellor did not even mention policing – despite the massive cuts to our local force and increased crime rates in the area, or the public sector pay cap which has caused a real terms pay cut for so many hard-working nurses, firefighters, police officers and other public sector workers here in Barnsley. “Hard-working people here in Barnsley needed a budget that tackled the effects of nearly a decade of Tory-imposed austerity, but the Government instead offered paltry solutions that fall woefully short of what’s needed.”
As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10th November, Stephanie outlined her thoughts on the continued importance of our Remembrance Day memorials, and how there's some things more important than politics. You can read the full column here.