Freedoms and benefits from academy status

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MY LAST constituency Friday took off with a trip to Chichester’s County Hall for a regular West Sussex MPs’ exchange of news and views on how we are responding to and delivering the Government’s national agenda locally, as well as issues of specific concern to our constituents.

Broadband, economic growth and partnership initiatives, adult social care, bus subsidies and the A27 bypass, libraries and learning difficulties were among the topics aired. And, of course, academies.

As readers will know, the Academies Act passed last summer has enabled existing schools to convert allowing them to enjoy the freedoms and benefits restricted by the last Government to only a few schools. Some 1,244 schools have now either received or applied for academy freedoms, with applications currently running at 23 a week.

So celebrating Southwater Infant and Junior schools’ groundbreaking conversion to academy status was an event I very much looked forward to as I sped back to Horsham for congratulations and a photo with staff and children – all too brief – before leaving them to enjoy their games and cream teas as I headed to my next appointment, this time just a short distance away at The College of Richard Collyer.

Here I was privileged to be part of another landmark event: the launch of a2om CIC’s state-of-the-art driver training software which it is hoped will help reduce significantly the number of young people dying on the roads in West Sussex. As a parent myself, I was delighted to be asked to unveil the pilot launch of Drive IQ, and to have the opportunity of helping to publicise this important road safety initiative.

From virtual driving to the virtual ward! I always enjoy my walkabouts at Horsham Hospital and meeting the patients and hard-working staff. This time the patients were ‘virtual’ because they remain in the most appropriate setting for them – usually at home - while being monitored by two dedicated nursing teams in the modern equivalent of a ward round. The community nursing team are enthusiastic about the model and patients benefit by avoiding unnecessary stays in hospital.

With surgery of another sort in mind I cross the road to Gough House and a series of meetings with constituents to discuss matters spanning the personal and political.

I look forward to ending the day with a social event organised by dedicated constituency association members – and a relaxing weekend to follow.

If any readers would like me to visit their organisation, please do get in touch with my House of Commons office.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham