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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Poverty issue a huge concern

WE owe our teachers so much in helping prepare our children to succeed in life, so we need to listen when they sound the alarm about how tough it is getting for families at the moment.

EM John Woodcock
Barrow and Furness Labour MP John Woodcock

I am grateful for the way so many heads and senior teachers answered the call to give their views to the Furness Poverty Commission last week, the group I set up to shine a light on hidden deprivation in south Cumbria.

Thirty schools from across the area were represented at the meeting, called by Greengate Infants’ head Caroline Hoggarth, who is leading the commission brilliantly.

They gave a stark message: things are going in the wrong direction in several key areas and it is often getting harder to support parents in giving local children the start they need.

I am very concerned about their fears that some of the proposed changes to the national curriculum could turn off some of our youngsters at the very moment we need to be doing more to raise their aspirations.

That comes on top of the evidence of dire, debilitating poverty that teachers witness day after day.

The stories being highlighted by the poverty commission should make us sad, angry and determined to do better.

There are no magic wands, we are not going to solve everyone’s problems, and often it feels like we are swimming against the tide at the moment.

But the people in that room, and concerned citizens across Furness, will not sit back and do nothing. That is why I am so grateful to the members of our poverty commission and everyone who is speaking up to demand more opportunities for families to prosper in our community.

PEOPLE know instinctively when something feels right.

That is perhaps one reason why hundreds of locals are voting with their voices to support the growing campaign to save Furness General Hospital’s maternity unit from being downgraded.

Just three weeks ago the Thousand Voices campaign was launched with volunteers – many of them young mums – recording on smart phones short video clips of locals saying why they want to keep a full consultant-led maternity unit at Furness General.

People’s individual experiences are amazing to hear, and this week campaigners were able to announce that more than one-third of the 1,000 target had been passed.

Time is at a premium for busy parents so we are all deeply indebted to the campaigners – my wife Mandy included – who are working so hard to defend this vital service.

But we need many more people to get involved to reach the target! So record your own clip and email it to saveFGHmaternity@gmail.com.

The louder we shout, the more impact we will make.

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