Education and skills
I spent most of my life working in education and it has been important to me since I was elected. I represent more students than any other MP, by a long way, and am Chair of the APPG on Students, which I set up to give further and higher education students a voice in Parliament. I also co-chair the APPG on International Students, which I established with Lord Bilimoria, and am Secretary of the APPG on Universities. I also work closely with schools, colleges, universities and businesses in Sheffield.
I work closely with local schools and voice their concerns with Government. Our schools face a funding crisis and I’ve been campaigning in Parliament for the money that they need. I have pressed the Education Secretary on the distribution of funding, the problems facing our primary schools, the inadequate resources available for support for pupils with special education needs and disabilities and need for a national strategy, and the way that creative subjects have been sidelined. At Prime Minister’s Questions I challenged Theresa May to listen to local headteachers’ concerns and provide the funding that they need, and I brought a delegation of Sheffield headteachers to make their case to the Schools Minister in 2019. I have also called on the Government to address the educational attainment gap between children in Yorkshire and London.
I hold regular Big Conversation meetings in local schools, listening to students about their concerns they want me to raise in Parliament. This year, my contribution to the debate on Johnson’s Queen’s Speech was based on their concerns, and I’ve also pressed Ministers on issues ranging from the move away from coursework to exam-only assessments to the need for better mental health provision for young people.
I regularly frequently visit Sheffield College and have regularly spoken in Parliament about the impact of further education cuts to their work, as well as arranging meetings with Ministers to secure additional finance. I have supported the #LoveOurColleges campaign and pressed for proper funding for further education, including writing to the Education Minister to press for the Augar review’s recommendations for Further Education to be implemented.
At a Parliamentary lobby in Westminster I warned the Government of the threat from cuts to adult education and training. I have also campaigned on specific issues like cuts to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses and bursaries for teachers of the deaf, which play a vital role in helping people play a full part in society.
I was delighted to be voted 2015’s most inspiring leader in Higher Education, as a result of my work championing universities and students. Both our universities are in my constituency – The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University – and I meet regularly with their staff and students to bring their concerns to Parliament. My work on universities has included supporting investment in university science and research, defending the Disabled Student’s Allowance, winning changes for international students, and scrutinising the Higher Education and Research Act (read more here). I pushed the Government for a comprehensive review of the student finance system and called for the Government to protect higher education funding following the Augar Report.
As a Shadow Brexit Minister, safeguarding universities’ funding, research and access to talent post-Brexit is a key priority (read more here). For example, I spoke from the front-bench in a Parliamentary debate on Brexit and higher education, challenged the Government on fee status for EEA nationals and have repeatedly pressed Ministers to protect the UK’s place in EU research programmes.
You can find out more about my work representing students here.
Business, innovation and skills
As a member of Parliament’s Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee between 2010 and 2016 I scrutinised the Business Department’s action on education and skills. As a committee we undertook inquiries into teaching quality at universities, business-university collaboration, the digital economy, apprenticeships and adult literacy and numeracy. I also led a debate in Parliament about the importance of university science and research to regional economies. I was also a member of the Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy – an innovative joint BIS and Education Select Committees group, which is focusing on how both the BIS and Education Departments can work together to promote education and skills.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more. You can also find out more about my work representing students here.