Ben Gummer on Schools, Smoking and Jeremy Corbyn



It’s a miscellany this week. First off, a quick reflection on the GCSE results in Ipswich, released at the end of August. It is a mixed picture, which is progress of sorts. First the good news. St Alban’s tops the list, as it usually does, but Copleston is the stand-out success of the schools at the top of the table, reflecting the leadership that Mr Common has provided at that school. But the best news is from the other side of town at what is now, rightly, called Chantry Academy. The new head, Mr D’Cunha, is already showing what can be done with rigour and determination: the school almost doubled their score from last year. Watch this school – it is going to fly.

Whilst there has certainly been some success, what is true of each of these schools is true for all secondary schools in Ipswich: each and every one could be doing much better. Compared with towns our size elsewhere in the country, our secondary schools are simply not good enough. The best should be doing better than the private Ipswich School, which is what happens in Colchester, just down the road. So – a hearty congratulations to Mr Common and Mr D’Cunha but a message to all: it looks like we have turned the corner but now we need to see improvements at pace. For the people who miss out if this takes too long are not politicians or teachers but the pupils, who only get one shot at education.

Smoking in Pregnancy

One area where we are at the top of the pack, so to speak, is the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy. Earlier this week the NHS released data on how many women in each area smoke during pregnancy and the rates vary from 1% in West London to 34% in Bury.

Smoking in pregnancy is a major contributor to poor childhood health, underweight babies and has been linked to stillbirth, so it is something that no one should be doing. Whilst it is clear that there is a clear correlation with deprivation, it is also clear that some NHS teams have been better at tackling smoking than others. So our own here in Ipswich, for instance, has achieved the fourth lowest in the country – at under 3% – lower than leafy Kingston in South London, Oxfordshire and West Suffolk, whose number is almost 10%. They have done this despite Ipswich containing some of the most deprived wards in the region. All credit to the mums who have given up during pregnancy and to the NHS staff who have helped them protect their babies.

Welcoming Jeremy

The Labour Party have chosen a new leader this week, providing much excitement to politicos in Westminster and Labour supporters across the country. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I like Jeremy Corbyn personally – we were both on the Justice Select Committee together and he is a courteous man whose company I enjoyed. It gave me pleasure to congratulate him personally at the back of the chamber on Tuesday, joking with him that I now had friends in high places.

Two short observations. First, Jeremy should be congratulated for the massive mandate he has secured. It is clear that he represents the majority of Labour Party opinion. Secondly, no matter what I think about him personally, the policies he advocates are a clear danger to our national security and the stability of our economy and by extension the security of our town and the families who live here.

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