As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 20th February, one in every four support staff in Barnsley’s secondary schools has been lost since 2011, Stephanie has revealed. The figures were admitted to the local MP by an Education Minister in response to a written parliamentary question. According to the Government, the number of teaching assistants in secondary schools across Barnsley has fallen from 287 in 2011 to 202 in 2017, a fall of nearly 30 per cent. Other support staff have fallen from 273 to 207 in the same period, a reduction of over 24 per cent. Combined, this means that staff other than frontline teachers in Barnsley’s secondary schools have reduced by over a quarter since 2011. Support staff are particularly important for children with special needs, often providing dedicated support and preventing increased workload pressure on teachers. Even auxiliary staff employed by schools, including everything from cafeteria workers to bus drivers, seen their number fall by over one in five. Since 2013 Barnsley’s schools have faced cuts to funding of £3m, equal to 5 per cent of the total schools block allocation funding. This is significantly higher than cuts across the region, equivalent to 3 per cent. Per pupil funding has fallen by over £500 in the same period, a drop of 8.4 per cent and higher than the national average of 4.9 per cent. Said Stephanie: “Once again, we see the real impact of this Government’s near decade-long obsession with austerity, as support staff in our schools have fallen by over a quarter since 2011. “Teachers are already under pressure after being asked in too many cases to do more with less, and now we see their vital support workers reduced significantly over recent years. “Many schools here in Barnsley are doing a fantastic job in trying circumstances, it’s time this Government properly supported them in doing so.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, Stephanie will be attending the Barnsley Independent Alzheimers and Dementia Support AGM next week. Read more below.
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, Stephanie recently met with Openreach’s Project Officer for Barnsley.Stephanie has been campaigning for improved coverage in the local area for over a year now, including writing to the Government and broadband providers, raising this issue in the House of Commons, conducting a residents’ broadband survey, and meeting with Superfast South Yorkshire.During the meeting with Openreach, Stephanie outlined her concerns regarding broadband coverage in Barnsley East, and the ways in which poor coverage can impact on her constituents’ day-to-day lives.Commenting, Stephanie said:“A stable and reliable internet connection is so important for people right across our area in their day-to-day lives, with people relying on the internet for shopping, paying bills, or dealing with benefit claims.“Unfortunately, coverage in Barnsley lags behind other areas, and often isn’t satisfactory – something constituents regularly raise with me. “That’s why I’ve been campaigning to improve connectivity and will continue to do so until broadband coverage here in Barnsley is at an acceptable level for my constituents.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, Stephanie recently visited the Exodus Project.The Project works with children and young people, providing activities, clubs and trips, as well as working with the local community on outreach events and activities.During her visit, Stephanie met with Martin Sawdon, the Project’s Co-founder and Development Manager, and had a tour of their centre.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was a pleasure to visit the Exodus Project, and see the work they’re doing with children and young people in our area.“Given the cuts to children and youth services since 2010, local groups like this here in Barnsley are so important.“That’s why I’m pleased to see the Exodus Project going from strength to strength, and I’ll support them in any way I can in future.”
As reported in the Yorkshire Post and Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, held a debate in the House of Commons last week to discuss the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme. In securing the debate, she took the opportunity to press a Government Minister to amend the controversial surplus sharing arrangement which has seen the Government pocket over £4.4bn from the scheme since 1994 – all without paying a single penny in. The Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme was established upon the privatisation of British Coal in 1994, and still contains around 160,000 members across the country. An agreement was struck at the time between the Government and the trustees of the scheme that the Government would act as guarantor to the pensions to protect their value, in return for 50 per cent of any surplus made. Since 1994, lucrative returns made by the scheme has seen the surplus soar, and the Government has raked in over £4.4bn without paying into the scheme. This includes £617m this year alone, with another £427m planned over the next three years. This is in contrast to the average weekly pension for a retired miner of just £84, whilst others are forced to get by on as little as £59. A previous admission from the Government to the Barnsley MP in the form of a response to a written question showed the initial deal that entitled the Government to such a large proportion of money was based on no expert actuarial advice. In previously refusing to review the surplus sharing arrangement, the Government has identified their role of guarantor in protecting pension values as providing an entitlement to funds. In the debate, however, Stephanie suggested that with a reducing and aging membership the guarantee no longer provided value for money for members, as the Government’s risk is in continual decline. Pressing the Government, Barnsley East’s MP asked Business Minister Claire Perry to protect the bonus element of the scheme, and amend the surplus sharing arrangement that will see a greater share of any surplus given to retired miners and their families. The Minister also offered to meet the Barnsley MP following her request, alongside MPs of other coalfield communities, scheme trustees, and the NUM. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Miners in communities like Barnsley toiled for years in dangerous, gruelling conditions to help keep our lights on and our country running. “Yet in retirement many are forced to get by on a pittance, whilst this Government is happy to take billions from their pensions pots without paying a single penny in. “Not only does the surplus sharing arrangement no longer provide value for money for its members, it’s staggeringly unfair. “Retired miners and their families should be given a greater proportion of any surplus, and the scheme should be immediately reviewed and amended to ensure they get what they have only ever wanted: their fair share.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th February, Stephanie visited Birkwood Primary to launch a politics themed series of activities.
As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th February, Stephanie wrote her recent column on her recent speech in Parliament on local charities and community groups. She discussed the vital role they have in helping local people, but the impact nearly a decade of the Government's austerity has had on their ability to continue doing so. You can read her full comments here.
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th February, Stephanie gave her support to those affected by cancer and the NHS staff who care for them at a recent special Westminster event for World Cancer Day. The local MP met with campaigners from Cancer Research UK to learn about the charity’s latest research and show her support for all those working to ensure more people survive cancer. Every year, around 1,400 people in Barnsley are diagnosed with cancer and in the UK 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lifetime. World Cancer Day was an opportunity for people, organisations and countries to work together, raise awareness and take action to beat cancer. Commenting, Stephanie said: “World Cancer Day helps to raise awareness of the scale of the challenge and the role we can all play in the fight against the disease. “Cancer affects us all – here in the UK and all around the world. We can all work together to beat it, not just the hard-working researchers and NHS staff who help to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. “Small actions really can make a big difference to the lives of people with cancer. That’s why I’m urging people in Barnsley to show their support all year round.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th February, Stephanie recently met with Dr Alan Billings, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. In the meeting, Stephanie raised the issue of the recent spate of crime in Hoyland, Hoyland Common and Elsecar, and spoke to the PCC about the work South Yorkshire Police are doing on this issue.They also discussed broader issues surrounding policing in Barnsley East, and ways Stephanie can work with the police on these issues.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was good to meet with the Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss the recent spate of crime in Hoyland, Hoyland Common and Elsecar.“As the MP for Barnsley East, one of my priorities is to ensure all residents feel safe and secure in our community, and I want to reassure those affected by this that the police and I are doing all we can.“More broadly, it’s clear that the police are doing an incredibly difficult job – the reality is that Tory cuts since 2010 have left South Yorkshire Police with 480 fewer police officers, and a 36% reduction in its PCSOs.“The Tories are trying to protect our communities on the cheap, so I’m calling on the Government to end its chronic underfunding of our police to ensure that they’re equipped for the challenges our community faces.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley News and Sport on 13th February, Stephanie recently visited Greenfield Primary School in Hoyland. During her visit, Stephanie met with the head teacher, Andrew Ralph, had a tour of the school and chatted to a Year class. She reflected: “It was great to visit Greenfield Primary School. It was a pleasure to meet such dedicated staff and bright, engaged students, and it was good to have a productive meeting with Mr Ralph about the work he’s doing at Greenfield, the challenges the school faces, and ways I can support him in addressing those challenges.”