SOUTH EAST MEP SUPPORTS AMBITIOUS £10,000 SKILLS WALLET PLEDGE

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Spokesperson for Education in Europe, has given her backing to what the party has offered as its vision for a “new era of learning throughout life”.

The concept entails the creation of an ambitious Skills Wallet. This will give every adult £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives. It will be paid for by reversing government cuts to corporation tax to bring the rate back to 20%.

Judith, who also sits on the Committee for Culture and Education (CULT) in the European Parliament, says: “The new plan gives people £4,000 for additional training at 25, £3,000 at 40 and another £3,000 at 55. It will help us all stay up to date in the workplace and also help people who respond better to training when they are older, outside of college or university.

“A Liberal Democrat government will create a new era of learning throughout adult life with Skills Wallets for every individual, providing £10,000 for each of us to spend on education and training at different stages of life.”

Individuals, their employers and local government will be able to make additional payments into the wallets, if they wish. Access to free careers guidance will also be provided.

Judith continues: “By stopping Brexit and investing in our Skills Wallets, Liberal Democrats will empower people to develop new skills so that they can thrive in the technologies and industries that are key to the UK’s economic future and prosperity. 

“Only the Liberal Democrats have a real plan to build a fairer economy and a brighter future.”

 

LIB DEM MEP EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON WELCOMES ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR UK STUDENTS

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Spokesperson for Education in Europe, has today welcomed the news that the European Commission has called for an additional €3bn worth of funding for the 2020 Erasmus+ programme, a 12% increase from 2019.

Most notably, Erasmus+ provides funding for university students and apprentices to live, learn and work for extended periods of time in EU member states. Since its inception in 1987 it has provided opportunities for over 9m people.

Judith, who also sits on the European Parliament Committee for Culture and Education in Europe (CULT), says: “I am absolutely delighted to see that the European Commission has called for an extra €3bn worth of funding for the Erasmus+ programme. This is a life-changing scheme that enables young people IN THE UK to live, study and train abroad. Erasmus+ symbolises all that’s great about the EU and, most importantly, HELPS ensure young people, are prepared for a world in which business is increasingly done on a global level.

“With this additional funding, the number of young British lives we could embolden by providing them with the means of living in new cultures and learning new languages is endless. That’s why I’m resolute in my belief that by leaving the EU, we would be failing our young people.”

MEP Life 15- Interviews, Interrogations and a week of #Education

Last week the Committees met to interview the incoming Commissioner Designates (effectively European Ministers), senior politicians with one put forward by each member state, to lead work in a particular policy area. The people being interviewed will only get the job IF they pass the scrutiny of the Parliament. This is a process designed to shed light on any issues that might cause someone to not be right for a role; whether that is probity, confidence or competence. What a refreshing approach to representation. . Wouldn’t it be great for parliament to have this degree of say-so when Ministers are chosen for the UK cabinet?  
 
The most notable hearing was that of the new Commissioner position, the Commissioner Designate for the “European way of life”.   

I attended this with my colleagues from the Culture and Education Committee, and also members from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and had the opportunity to ask a question. I had planned to raise the questions of education with him, as his role carries responsibility for life long learning, but with many others of the room I wanted to express my disquiet at the title of this new role. To me, there isn’t one “European Way of Life” and I was pleased to receive reassurance that cultural diversity will be protected – the Italian way of life, the Greek way of life, the French and German ways of life, and, of course, the British way of life all will be protected and promoted by Schinas, in this role. The motto of the EU is ‘United in Diversity’ and this is where the strength of the Union lies

Away from my committee work, as one of the delegates for The Korean peninsula, I met KIM Hyoung-zhin, the Ambassador for the Republic of Korea to the European Union. I look forward to continuing our conversation next week during the Delegation meetings. 
 
Thursday was National Poetry day, always a pleasure, and I was pleased to be asked to do a #StopBrexit film to tie in with this. It’s important, sometimes, to take a pause in the frenetic pressure cooker world to recognise how important Culture is in terms of providing an outlet for people to let out their feelings, consider different points of view and enjoy what we share in common. 
 
Back in the UK, on Friday night I was pleased to join Lib Dem Councillors and members at an event in Kidlington, and had a chance to publicly welcome the news that the British Prime Minister plans to abide by the law – one of the strangest sentences I have ever had to say or write! Nonetheless, I do welcome the news that if no agreement has been made between the UK and the EU about Brexit, and if it has not passed in Westminster, that Boris Johnson has committed to requesting an extension to the Article 50 deadline. In September, of course, the European Parliament voted in favour of granting that extension should it be requested. You can hear my speech about the vote here; 
 
This week ahead, my team is preparing for the visit of the group of more than twenty apprentices to visit the Parliament in Brussels along with visitors from across the #StopBrexit. More news about that next week.  

Stay safe, Judith 

Speech at Debate on Education: Autumn Conference!#LifeLongLearning

F19: Education is for Everyone: Investing in Further Education and Learning Throughout Life

Investment in education and training for skills development is essential to boost growth and competitiveness: skills determine our capacity to increase productivity and act in an increasingly globalized world.

In the long-term, skills can trigger innovation and growth, move production up the value chain, stimulate the concentration of higher-level skills and shape the future of our labour market.

The quality of education and supply of skills has increased worldwide but in the UK, as we learned, annual funding for a student in 16-19 education has fallen by 18 per cent in real terms since 2010 and two in five further education colleges are in deficit.

The Adult Education Budget has been cut in real terms since 2015 and less than two per cent of the Government’s education spending is for adult learners. This is unacceptable.

In consequence, our education and training systems continue to fall short in providing the right skills for employability. Our education systems are not working adequately with business or employers to bring the learning experience closer to the reality of the working environment.

Our call is to:
 – Introduce a universal Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA) for adults in England.
 – Make three payments into an individual’s PESA when the account holder turns 25, 40 and 55.
 – Make additional payments in response to certain life events (e.g. redundancy), to combat socio-economic inequality, and to encourage workers to retrain into shortage occupations.
 – Offer tax relief or match funding to incentivise account holders and their employers to pay into their PESA.
 – Encourage local authorities and city regions to make discretionary payments into PESAs to incentivise education and training in their areas.
 – Enable account holders aged 25 or over to use the money saved in their PESAs to pay for any accredited education or training course.
  – Provide free careers guidance to anyone wishing to use the money in their PESA to support them to choose a course that will help them achieve their personal or career development aims.

This is just a beginning. Much more needs to be done if we want to shape a competitive global economy.

Demand better for education

The Education Select Committee report, published today, calls on the Government to commit to a 10-year, multi-billion cash injection for schools and colleges. Sitting on the Education and Culture committee, I have been horrified over the past few years by the way that the Conservative government has cut funding for schools and colleges to the bone. Funding levels have failed to keep up with spiralling costs and increased pupil numbers. 

Representing the South East of England in the European Union, I wholeheartedly support the cross party call for the Government to commit to a 10-year, multi-billion cash injection for schools and colleges.

Teachers have been forced to buy resources out of their own pockets, teaching assistants have been let go, and many schools have been forced to shut their doors early. Schools report not having enough funding to pay for textbooks, stationery and science equipment. 

Today’s report shows that MPs across all parties are not prepared to see our schools and colleges face years of continued uncertainty. Yet this is exactly what the Conservative Government has created. They have seemingly scrapped an announcement on school funding planned for this week, and have not yet told teachers how much they will be paid next year. 

As Liberal Democrats, we demand better for our children and teachers. That is why we are campaigning for an emergency cash injection into our schools and colleges, so that they have the resources teachers need to teach and pupils need to learn.

“Newbury Talks” with your MEP

Rounding off her time as co-organiser of Newbury talks, MEP Judith Bunting reflects; “I have really enjoyed meeting so many people through Newbury Talks, both the audience and speakers. The sessions have been engaging and eclectic, covering a wide variety of subjects.” Since being elected as an MEP for the South East of England, Judith’s time is now taken up with focussing on her role in the European Parliament, which officially started on Tuesday.

Sunday’s talk featured Alom Shaha
discussing ‘How to be your child’s first
science teacher’. Teacher & author
of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom spoke about how to introduce science to children, and how parents can help their children learn using their natural curiosity about the world and taking the step from “wow!” to “how?”.

 


Attending her last session, Judith comments; “I am pleased to say that I will be sitting on the education and culture commission, and as Alom said at ‘Newbury Talks’ – science is one of our greatest cultural achievements, humans make science.”

 

Organised with Trevor Mathers, and supported by his family, Newbury Talks was established in 2016. Trevor says; “Newbury Talks has been organising free talks to educate and entertain since March 2016. In that time, we have covered an eclectic range of subjects from genetics, telling the future using crowd sourcing, making music from data, all the way through to political corruption in the UK!”


Speaking of what the future holds for Newbury Talks, Trevor explains “We are currently putting together the next programme of talks, there are some exciting things in the pipeline, watch this space.”


To keep updated with upcoming ‘Newbury Talks’ events, you can contact the team here: info@newburytalks.org.uk

 

School cuts – West Berkshire Council proposes charging schools who need help

Judith Bunting at Park House School, Newbury, during
the recent election campaign.
With Ian Millar, Head of Physics.

This week West Berkshire Council announced plans for financial “task forces” to be sent into the district’s struggling schools to help heads manage their budgets. They are also threatening to charge any school that requires ‘the task force intervention’.
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Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury, said: “This is another shockingly negative move from the Conservatives on West Berkshire Council. They present this issue as if our schools are failing, In reality, the actions of West Berkshire Council and the Conservative Government mean that many local schools have not only suffered significant cuts to their funding, but at the same time are being expected to provide more services around children’s mental health and other matters.”
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Judith continued, “West Berkshire Council should be glad to help schools doing their best to keep up standards of education under such onslaught, not chastise them and then charge them for the privilege.”
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This week, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran told national press about the hypocrisy surrounding Justine Greening’s announcement £1.3bn of additional funding for schools. In reality, she said, this ‘additional funding’ will come from “efficiencies” from within the education budget:
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“This is a desperate attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Instead of providing the £4bn of extra funding promised in their manifesto, the Conservatives are recycling cash from the education budget. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Schools are still facing cuts to their budgets once inflation and increasing class sizes are taken into account.
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“Children only get one go at education. We need to invest more in our schools to ensure that no child is left behind.”
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Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Twitter, here: @wberkslibdems

Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Facebook, here: www.facebook.com/WestBerksLibDems

News and views from Judith Bunting can be found, here: www.judithbunting.co.uk or @JudithBuntingLD or www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Judith Bunting announces Lib Dem plans for funding boost to give children in West Berkshire a brighter future

Judith reading to preschool children
Judith reading to preschool children

This week, at Park House School, Newbury, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Judith Bunting launched the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto policies for young people and children.

Under the plans, 3-4 year-olds in Newbury and West Berkshire would benefit from Liberal Democrat plans to triple funding for the early years pupil premium, which gives extra cash to nurseries, pre-schools and school receptions when they take on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The cash would triple the funding to £1,000 per pupil per year – up from £302 in 2015-16.  This will increase the allocation for West Berkshire Council from around £75,000 (£74,591) to £223,773, and will pay for every disadvantaged child who benefits to receive 570 hours of state-funded early education. This forms part of a series of policies the Liberal Democrats are announcing with a focus on giving children and young people a brighter future.

Judith Bunting said: “I was delighted to be able to tell the 6th formers today about key Liberal Democrat policies that will significantly improve the lives of young people.”

These include:

  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK

As well as:

  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Judith Bunting added: “We will give children in Newbury and West Berkshire a brighter future, by investing in those from more deprived backgrounds to give them the best possible chance in life.

“This forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain and ensure no child or young person is left behind. Education is at the heart of everything I stand for, as a Liberal Democrat.

“I want the opportunity to help the Liberal Democrats provide a strong opposition to this Conservative government and to give the people of Newbury and West Berkshire a voice in standing up against the cuts to our local schools, hospitals and regional funding.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a brighter future for people across Newbury and the surrounding area.”  

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let us all down by voting with Theresa May and UKIP on Brexit. “The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May and give the people the final say on Brexit, with the choice to remain in Europe if they don’t like the deal on offer.”

Lib Dem Judith Bunting unveils manifesto plan to fund more nurses, teachers and police in West Berkshire

The Liberal Democrats have launched their manifesto plans today for a brighter future, with pledges to reverse Conservative cuts and increase funding for the NHS, schools and police.

The Party’s landmark policy would give the people the final say on the Brexit deal which would include the option to remain in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax for health and care, which would raise £8m for the NHS in Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group – enough to fund 48 more nurses.

An additional £28,953,046 of funding for schools in West Berkshire paid for in part by reversing Conservative cuts to corporation tax, would be enough to pay for 159 more teachers.

Meanwhile an additional £8.3m funding for Thames Valley Police would pay for 166 more officers, helping to cut crime and ensure a stronger police presence in the area.

Other key policies in the Liberal Democrat manifesto include plans for a £100bn infrastructure fund to build more homes, improve road and rail links and install fibre-optic broadband across the country.

The Liberal Democrats will also give the people a chance to change Britain’s future by holding a referendum on the final Brexit deal, with the option to remain.

Liberal Democrat candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting said:

“These plans would build a brighter future for people in Newbury and West Berkshire and reverse Conservative cuts to our schools, hospitals and police.

“We want to build a fairer Britain, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy.

“You don’t have to accept Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain.

“The Liberal Democrats will stand up to a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and put up prices and give you the final say.

“As your Liberal Democrat MP, I will fight for a better deal on Europe, more money for the NHS and schools and a brighter future for Newbury and West Berkshire.” 

Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital
Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital

The Lib Dem Manifesto (and Easy Read, BSL and Braille versions) can be found here.