In recent months, LDV has been bringing its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Today, Baron Storey, of Childwall in the City of Liverpool made his maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on early intervention for children. His words are reproduced below.
My Lords, I first thank noble Lords for making my entry into the House so welcoming. Indeed, the generosity of that welcome and the support from attendants and staff has been truly remarkable. I am a city councillor forged in the political council chamber of Liverpool. Coming to the House and seeing respect, reflection, support, concern and friendship is quite remarkable.
I am a head teacher. I have been a teacher for 40 years and a head teacher for the past 25 years. My current school, of which I am head teacher, is a large three-form entry primary school, with 332 children at the last count and a 100-place nursery, in Knowsley on the outskirts of Liverpool. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for this opportunity to give my thoughts about early intervention as a practitioner. As she rightly says, the most important intervention for any child is made by the child’s parent or parents. The love and support that the parents give to that child is crucial. But we should also be supporting parents, particularly those parents who find themselves in vulnerable situations that perhaps are not of their own making. I note the comment made by Iain Duncan Smith a few days ago when he said, rightly in my view:
“Unless something changes in the adult’s life, nothing changes for the child”.
How true those remarks are.
I know that we are talking about intervention in early years, and I shall come to that in a moment, but intervention in my view has to happen throughout the life of the child or young person. Those interventions cannot just be a fad which one minute we pick off the shelf because it is the in-thing to do. They have to be thought through very carefully and, when we know they are right, we have to make sure that they are consistently given time and resources to make them work.
I am glad to say that one of the most important interventions that the last Government made was with the Sure Start centres. They have made a huge difference, particularly in deprived communities, and especially in inner-city areas, to the lives of children and young people. I regret that in some local authorities those important Sure Start and children’s centres are being closed down. I have also scripted in my mind a comment that my noble friend Lady Walmsley made—that I am proud that in my party’s control of local authorities, not one Sure Start centre has closed down.
I shall spend a few minutes talking about the Graham Allen report, Early Intervention: The Next Steps. First of all, I commend this report as it is one of the best pieces of writing about early intervention that I have read. It is hugely important, and I commend those who had the foresight to ask for it and work on it. In this report Allen makes the comment to which I alluded a few moments ago:
“This is not to say that development stops at age … We need to keep supporting them throughout childhood in ways which help them reach the key milestones of social and emotional development”.
That is very important indeed.
In this report, Allen also identifies 19 possible intervention strategies. It is sad to reflect that of those 19 interventions nearly all originate in the United States of America and only one in the UK—reading recovery. I wonder why, and what happened to UK interventions. The other point made in the report is about the use of the private sector, and I caution concern about that because, although the private sector is important, we must be careful that we do not in some people’s minds subject our most vulnerable and needy to profit and loss. That might be something that we need to consider.
I know the support mechanisms that are around to help children. While I listened with interest to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, one of the most important steps now, as a head teacher, would be to use the pupil premium to decide how my teaching staff will target that money to help the most needy as well as those who need intervention in my school. I have seen my school budget increase, so I will be able to use my own resources to target the interventions, which we think will make a difference to the lives of children.
I end by saying that schools make a real difference to children’s lives, but they cannot do it alone. They need the support of other interventions. I thank noble Lords for having the patience to listen to me on my first very nervous speech in the House of Lords.