Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 7th October 2017
Welcome to my latest newsletter. If you know someone who does not subscribe but might like to receive it, please do forward this to them and point them towards my website where they can sign up to receive it.
Yesterday I held meetings with head teachers and principals from five of North Devon's secondary schools to discuss the latest funding situation.
Last month, the Education Secretary announced a re-think of the National Funding Formula. It means an extra £7.5 million for Devon's schools, which was achieved after much lobbying from myself and other MPs, as well as schools, teachers and parents.
This is a big improvement on what was on offer in the original formula, and proves that the government is listening and that North Devon now has influence.
However, there is much more to do to correct the historic unfairness which has seen Devon schools underfunded for years, under governments of all colours. The latest news is welcome but it still leaves Devon languishing near the bottom of the league table when it comes to funding per pupil compared with the national average.
Yesterday the head teachers left me in no doubt that times are hard and that more needs to be done.
I will make it my priority, when Parliament returns on Monday, to keep raising this issue. Indeed I have already arranged a meeting with the Schools Minister to make him aware of the continuing concerns in North Devon.
This government is listening and acting, in a way that previous governments have failed to do, to try and correct the historic unfairness. But there is still further to go, and I will keep fighting.
Still on the theme of education, this morning it was a privilege to be asked to attend the Petroc graduation ceremony.
More than a hundred higher education students, wearing their gowns and mortar boards, processed though the centre of Barnstaple to the ceremony at the Parish Church.
There, proud families and friends were waiting to see them receive their certificates and prizes. We also listened to some inspirational speeches and heard the sometimes moving stories of how students had overcome adversity to achieve their degrees.
Petroc offers Higher Education courses in conjunction with the University of Plymouth.
This tie-up means more than 500 students are now studying for degrees and equivalent qualifications right here in North Devon.
The damp weather as we processed through Barnstaple failed to dampen the spirits. This was a great day, and all the graduates and their families, as well as the staff of Petroc, should be extremely proud of what they've achieved.
Last Friday – as this week's photo shows - I enjoyed one of the most unusual and fascinating evenings of recent times.
As night fell, I found myself standing in a remote corner of a farmyard just outside Braunton.
With me were three experts from the Devon Bat Project, operating detectors emitting intermittent squeaks and whistles.
We were there because this is the location of the only known maternity roost in North Devon of the Greater Horseshoe Bat.
I'm proud to be National Species Champion for these wonderful creatures. The scheme links MPs with wildlife organisations to bring political support to the protection and promotion of threatened wildlife. MPs raise awareness of our species and the causes of their decline, both in Parliament and in our constituencies.
The project is run by a group of seven national wildlife organisations, one of which is the Bat Conservation Trust. In turn the BCT have put me in touch with the Devon Bat Project, who were my hosts for the evening.
As darkness descended, we were treated to the wonderful spectacle of hundreds of bats emerging from the old farm buildings. They took to the skies and flew within a few yards of us, sending the bat detector machines off the scale.
It was an awe-inspiring sight and sound. These endangered species are vital to our ecosystem, and I'm delighted to do what I can to promote their protection. It was a real privilege to see them at such close quarters.
For more information you can visit www.devonbatproject.org
Two Moors Festival
Next weekend sees the opening of the wonderful Two Moors Festival.
This feast of classical music and culture, now in its seventeenth year, has a fascinating history.
In 2001, Penny Adie was driving along the high ridge near North Molton. From the road she could see great swathes of farmland, from Exmoor to Dartmoor. The landscape was punctuated by fires as diseased cattle were burned, and the air was heavy with the smoke from the pyres. It was the height of the foot & mouth crisis, and the countryside was being devastated.
Penny decided there and then that something had to be done, and that the area would need a lift – something to look forward to and to bring the community together after the horrors had passed.
The Two Moors Festival began that year as a small concern with just a few performances, but has now grown in to a cultural event of national importance.
There are so many performances this year that it's difficult to pick out highlights, but a couple are worth a mention.
One of the most unusual venues is Tiverton Parkway station - somewhere I know well thanks to my weekly trips to Westminster. The station is hosting the Kaleidoscope Saxophone Quartet next Saturday at 11.45am – carefully timed to minimise interruptions from trains.
A week later, on the Festival's last day, the finale concert is being given by our very own North Devon Sinfonia. This local orchestra has become nationally famous after winning a recent TV competition. They'll be performing at St Paul's Church in Tiverton at 7.30pm.
On the same day, I'm honoured to have been asked to present the prizes at the Festival's Young Musician competition, something I'm really looking forward to.
For full details of the Festival, which runs from 13 to 21 October, log on to their website at www.thetwomoorsfestival.co.uk
In a few years, the Two Moors Festival has grown from Penny's idea during a car journey to become one of the country's most renowned classical music events, right here on our doorstep. I'm proud to be a supporter.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Mail: 1st Floor Office Suite, Church House, Church Lane
Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
Telephone: 01271 327990
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