Monday is a great day to reflect on what MPs and Councillors have done in the previous week as well as to call for them to work together to improve our situations in the future. It is of course much easier to observe the words that MPs have spoken in their public space than for Councillors. The challenge to be able to observe similar texts from the three Upper Tier Councils and indeed the second and third tier Councils across Sussex seems very much harder. That said as far as the upper tier Councils are concerned, I was delighted last week that East Sussex used a communication email to acknowledge the positive aspects of the Sussex Day that occurred a couple of weeks ago which followed the West Sussex response on the same theme several days earlier. It would be fantastic if Brighton and Hove could add their voice to the same theme because whilst Sussex Day is only one day each year, it raises up the principles that should be promoted for much longer periods for all of us who live and work in Sussex. The principles of people in Sussex undertaking for the wellbeing of our neighbours, our wildlife and the support all local businesses require a lot more focus than one day of each year. The fact that only one MP mentioned it in Parliament in the last few weeks is rather sad and it is certainly not too late for Brighton and Hove Council and members of Parliament to raise the theme over the next few days.
One of the issues that occurred last week which was on Monday was a debate that took part in Westminster Hall which related to three petitions each of which focused on a key theme of Black Lives Matter and each of which was started on 10th June 2020. The debate was held under the title of Black History and Cultural Diversity in the Curriculum and the three petitions were Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history – Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums and Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum. Each of these had a different number of signatures. They were 27,000, 89,000 and 269,000 which indicates that a great deal of people are concerned about this theme. A significant number of people in Sussex had signed all three of these petitions and although the largest proportions were in Brighton and Hove there were significant numbers in Lewes and on two of the petitions in Chichester. This makes the involvement of Gillian Keegan albeit partly because of her role within the Department for Education very encouraging for those of her constituents who had signed the petition. It was explained that she stepped in at that last minute in place of the Minister who should have responded and one can assume that could have been Nick Gibb who is also her neighbouring MP. The involvement by Peter Kyle from Hove was also because of his education involvement in the Labour Party but he was also able to represent his constituents. Sadly, there were no other Sussex MPs involved although given that there were only 8 MPs plus the Chair person in the whole debate, this does make Sussex very well represented. However, given the number of people who responded to these petitions it does seem rather sad that there was only enough time for 8 MPs to respond to this subject in Parliament last week. That said and given that the debate was not able to lead to a formal decision there was still some very positive aspects. The MP who opened up the debate and also closed it was Chris Evans and in his final comment he stated the following elements.
This has been a fantastic debate, and I pay tribute to all Members who have taken part; I hope the pilot scheme on black and ethnic minority history can be rolled out across the country; I was quite hopeful from the end of [Gillian Keegan’s] speech that we can come to some arrangement with the Government to bring black history to the fore in schools. She said that the Government really get that, and there is consensus around the issue, so we can really improve the teaching of history.
So, we now need Gillian and Peter to communicate with all of their colleagues following last week’s important debate. Then all of the 16 Sussex MPs need to work together with the leaders of the three upper tier Councils which are responsible for educational provision in our area. They can then inform us how they will respond to this call from over 5,000 people in Sussex for this element of our nation’s education matters to be significantly improved.