Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

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As part of Teach First North East's 5 year celebrations, Sharon spoke at their awards ceremony about the issue of child poverty in education. You can read her speech below.




Thank you for inviting me to speak today. It is an honour to be here to celebrate 5 years of Teach First here in the North East.

For me, just like everyone in this room, I see education as a crucial route out of poverty, whereby we unlock the potential of children by believing in them and offering them opportunities they might never have had, so that they can reach their full potential.

As the second President of the United States, John Adams, said: “Before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education … to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.”

Adams was speaking about his new fledgling country’s education system, in its widest sense, but what resonates with me in this quote is the belief that a memorable change can have such an impact on our lives, acting like a catalyst that can change the course of a child’s life for the better, if done the right way.

The facilitators of that change are teachers and everyone who works within the school environment. Each and every one of you here today can have a substantial impact on the lives of the children in your schools. That power must never be forgotten and must be realised at every opportunity available.

Whilst I am not standing here today to tell you how to do your jobs – teachers get enough of that from politicians already – what I am here to do is recognise the amazing work done day-in and day-out by teachers and how it is vital that this work is used to help alleviate poverty in our society.

Poverty is a multi-faceted and complex issue, where one fix will not address all the causes of poverty.

It goes without saying that to end poverty in our society, we need to address a whole host of issues, from low pay, to housing, to worklessness, and education should not be singled out as the silver bullet.

But what education can do is provide a vehicle out of poverty, if linked together with strategies in other places, but one thing education can do on its own is provide children, who endure poverty everyday of their childhood, with the sanctuary to escape it while still living in it, as teachers you can’t change that, but you can allow them to realise their potential and their worth without being burdened by the weight of poverty on their shoulders, in the knowledge that this gift of education can be their escape to a better, more prosperous and fulfilling life.

Regardless of what is going on down in Parliament or in government to address these issues, each and every day that a teacher walks into their classroom, they are doing what we all say we must do: break the cycle of generational poverty by inspiring children and teaching them that they have far more to offer in life, than what they may presume.  To make them believe that their future really is in their hands, that it doesn’t have to be like their past or their present.

I see this often when I visit schools in my constituency just down the road in Sunderland or when I visit schools up and down the country, but also in documentaries, such as “Educating Essex” or “Educating Yorkshire” – which show the lengths by which teachers go to transform the lives of children.

One clear example that sticks out for me, is from Educating Yorkshire, where we see Mr Burton help Musharaf, a pupil with a severe stammer, to overcome his impediment which has the triumph of Musharaf speaking in front of the whole school in assembly for the first time, with confidence and with no stammer.  

I don’t know about you, but when I watched that episode, and saw the final scenes, I was deeply moved and also humbled at the power of our education system to transform lives for the better and of course, I shed a few tears.

This power to transform a child’s life through education can be a valiant fight against poverty in our schools.

Today, there are three things that I want to talk to you about: the current state of poverty in the UK and how poverty affects education; what I have been doing during my time as a Member of Parliament, specifically around hunger – which is an all too real part of poverty in our society, and finally; how education and our schools can be a driver to alleviate poverty.

Current State of Child Poverty & impact on education

It has been estimated that in 2014-15, 3.9 million children were living in poverty – an increase of 200,000 on the previous year. As a percentage, this means out of all children in the country, 28% are living in poverty.

Here in the North East, there are approximately 132,000 children living in poverty.

These are all big numbers – unfathomable to many. But if we were to look at this matter on a micro-level, say the classroom, these figures would translate into 9 children in each classroom living in poverty.

These 9 children in your classroom will be living in difficult circumstances – I know, I was one of them – be it poor housing conditions, to a dysfunctional family environment, to looking after family members or their siblings or dealing with many of the other difficulties life throws at them without having the resilience to deal with them.

Poverty for these 9 children can also manifest itself as not having uniform changes or nice clothes for mufti-days, or money to go on school trips or to events that the school puts on, to even not having money to buy the ingredients for cookery lessons.

The persistence of poverty in our society has a knock-on effect on the education of our children.

It is a well-known fact that the most disadvantaged children are falling behind those from more affluent backgrounds.

This was clearly shown in 2015, when GCSE results were analysed and showed that 36.7% of disadvantaged pupils received 5 A* to C grades, compared with 64.7% of all pupils.

Compound this with the fact that England has a stronger correlation between parental social background and children’s test scores than many other developed countries, then it is clear that schools are a prime place for us to help alleviate some of the issues children in poverty face.

There are many more facts out there that show that poverty is impacting on the lives of children and their educational attainment. Such as the fact that only 5% of children eligible for free school meals – seen as a key determiner of poverty – gained 5 A grades at GCSE.

Or the fact, that a child living in one of England’s most disadvantaged areas is 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than a child living in one of the least disadvantaged.

The list of facts and figures could go on. This is one of those examples where the facts really do speak for themselves and instead of some Government heads being buried in the sand, they should be facilitating progress and improving the lives of the worst off children in our society. 

What can we do?

This is why I have been a key supporter of poverty proofing the school day, and have spoken on this matter often in the past and also worked to introduce policies that can help alleviate poverty.

This has included campaigning to introduce universal free school meals – I’ve partly succeeded and we now have Universal Infant Free School Meals, the story behind that is a speech in itself – this is so important because these meals provide children with the necessary nutrients at lunch time to help improve learning, behaviour and wellbeing.

What some people don’t realise is this meal can often be the only nutritious meal a child has in a day. With this fact in mind, this can mean that children who rely upon their free school meals can go without during the school holidays when they do not receive their free school meal. The impact this has is well-documented by teachers who see malnourished children who return from the long summer holidays having fallen behind only to improve and catch up again after a few weeks of access to free breakfasts and lunches to aid their learning.

This issue is commonly known as child holiday hunger, and is an issue which I have campaigned on for a number of years now, in my capacity as Chair of the APPG on School Food.

Some out there think that, when the school gates lock for the school holidays, it is none of our business about how a child eats, or doesn’t in some cases, when they are at home.

But children are at school for 190 days of the year, and the rest, a total of 170 days, their food is the responsibility of their parents totally.  Some may say this is right and how it should be.

But what I say, is that when children in 21st century Britain are going hungry for sustained periods, then inaction is simply not acceptable.

If we are to seriously address child poverty through education, then we cannot do it with hungry children, especially when all the hard work that goes into improving children’s life chances is reversed, if they are too hungry to learn, all because some say it is none of our business to get involved.

I have also campaigned on school uniform policies, which can be a source of contention in schools where it can be used as stealth selection or cause bullying amongst pupils, to even more inane issues which get overlooked, such as not having the right stationary, books, equipment or ingredients when a child comes to a lesson to learn.

These are only a few of the things I have campaigned on, and what we can do to help eradicate poverty from the school environment and the impact it has on a child’s attainment.

But for teachers directly, you are in the perfect position to inspire, lead and nurture children to be the best they can possibly be.

Remember the example I gave earlier from Educating Yorkshire – you too can be your own Mr Burton and change a child’s life – I’m sure you’re doing it already. It just takes passion and determination – something I know you all possess already to be here.  

Teach First is a perfect example of how we can help change the lives of children in the most deprived areas, where poverty is the most apparent.

The driving force of the charity is that every child deserves the best education possible and that a child’s socio-economic background does not disadvantage them, and you place high achieving graduates in schools where they can relish the chance to really improve the lives of children and young people.

That is why I want to thank everyone at Teach First and all of you here today for doing that – it cannot be under-valued the impact that charities such as yours are having to help raise the attainment of children in the most deprived areas of our country.


I truly believe that poverty is not an inevitability – we don’t need to see poverty in our society. What poverty tells us is that we have failed as a society to address social and economic issues which cause poverty, due to a lack of political will, innovative thinking and a drive to act.

But schools and teachers are the perfect conduits for allowing us to end this issue once and for all, as long as you are supported by policymakers who create an education system and environment conducive to such work and not one that encourages more social separation and division.

Each and every person here today has the power to change a child’s life – just like Mr Burton did with Musharaf – and Mr Ridley and Miss Brown did for me - and I hope when you go back to your classrooms following today’s celebrations that you will continue to do what I know you all do anyway: inspire children, regardless of their background, to dream big and be the best they can possibly be and not allow their background to limit them.

I started with a quote, and I will end with another, this time from the inspirational former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, who in her final speech as First Lady said:

“We can be whatever we dream.”

Remember that when you go back to your classrooms and to those 9 children who live in poverty – they may not know it, but you do.

Help them realise their dreams.

Thank you. 

Sharon speaks at Teach First North East's 5 year celebration

As part of Teach First North East's 5 year celebrations, Sharon spoke at their awards ceremony about the issue of child poverty in education. You can read her speech below....

During National Apprenticeship Week, Sharon was honoured to open Unipres' new Training Academy. 

You can read Sharon's speech below. unipres.JPG


Thank you for inviting me to be here today to mark the opening of a fantastic new facility that will kick start the careers of young people wishing to enter into engineering, for generations to come.

High-quality apprenticeships are a vital way to help young people take their first steps into working life, and offer many young people the chance to earn and learn at the same time. That is why I am always delighted when local businesses in our community provide young people with these opportunities; Unipres has a long history of doing so.

We all know it, but young people are the future. Companies like Unipres who invest in the future are not only doing right by young people in the area, but by themselves as a business, as they build a strong and sustainable future.

Today's opening is about just that. It’s about creating a space that will strengthen Unipres’ team, and one that will also create so many opportunities for young people in and around Sunderland.

Nationally we have seen a real push for apprenticeships, and this has spurred on the more forward-thinking companies to look at new ways of growing their own talent.

That is why it is excellent to see Unipres tap into this national issue with the opening of their training academy, which will not only prepare themselves to manufacture more than just car parts, but also invest more in the workforce here in Sunderland.
Businesses are fuelled by people – while machines and facilities are one part of the picture, critically it all relies upon people, skilled people, to drive business and to innovate and create.

Sunderland has that, based in part on what I believe to be the innate abilities of the people of Sunderland when it comes to manufacturing and engineering, and also the dedication of local businesses to invest in the workforce in our area.

Combine both of our natural skills and industry-led training and you have a recipe for success, and today’s opening celebrates that.

Unipres working hand in hand with the city's college and the city council to deliver this Training Academy will be a great success for our City, and I am proud to have this initiative based in my constituency.

Sunderland College, and the FE sector at large, has faced incredible scrutiny from Government over the last year or so, but its role in bringing through talented young people who are ready to take the reins from the leaders of today, cannot be underestimated.

It is heartening to see a local business that has a commitment to this city is also reflecting a commitment to localism in its work with the education sector, and I am sure it will yield a strong partnership for many years to come. We have some tremendous assets in the city, and we must encourage them to work together to deliver bigger, better things for the next generation.

The automotive sector presents a huge opportunity for Sunderland. Despite the challenges that lie ahead as we begin our exit from the European Union, we still have a strong unique selling point as an attractive and flourishing automotive hub.

What this academy does is give Sunderland a vote of confidence, which will send a clear message to other businesses that may be looking at this part of the world. What this message says is: we are open for business.

Pair this message with the planned developments, such as the IAMP not far from here, then there is a world of opportunity out there for our City.

But the Government must make sure that this work done at a local level is supported and sustainable by ensuring what goes on nationally complements this work, but also local work is not hindered as we enter the negotiations to exit the EU and then leave the EU.

As the local Member of Parliament, I am fully committed to supporting the manufacturing sector here in Sunderland – as I am sure we all are in this room today.

Today is a fantastic step for the UK automotive sector, the North East, and especially for Sunderland. It’s a credit to Unipres, and to the skills of the team at the company, who have helped create the level of confidence needed for this fantastic business to continue with its investment in our great City.

I am both proud and delighted to be here today at the opening of Unipres’ Training Academy. Congratulations and I know it will go from strength to strength.

Sharon opens Unipres' new Training Academy

During National Apprenticeship Week, Sharon was honoured to open Unipres' new Training Academy.  You can read Sharon's speech below.  CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Thank you for inviting me to be here...

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. 


In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new improved casework system. This allows me to record correspondence from constituents and identify major issues affecting the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.

Some people may think it would be Brexit or some other big national issue. However, surprisingly one of the top issues is animal welfare.

Since 2007, I have received 1,147 letters, emails or postcards about the vast array of issues on animal welfare.

This includes dog fighting, the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, wild animals in circuses, concerns over trophy hunting, the controversial badger culls, puppy farming, fox hunting... the list goes on and on.

This isn’t surprising. Every week I write letters to constituents about a whole host of issues, but it is clear that the people of Washington and Sunderland West are passionate animal lovers.

As a pet owner myself, I completely understand this. Animals are defenceless creatures and it is up to us to uphold our moral duty to do the right thing by them.

Recently, on one of Parliament’s sitting Fridays – where Private Members Bills are brought before Parliament by Backbench MPs to be debated – we saw three Bills on animal welfare – one on wild animals in circuses, and two on sentencing around animal cruelty.

Yet, all three were opposed by the Government despite huge public support for them.

I should know, I have had many constituents write to me about these specific Bills.

Labour has a proud track record on animal welfare issues.

We will continue to champion this record and build upon it, which I will do with renewed vigour, knowing that this is an issue which my constituents care so deeply about.

ECHO COLUMN: Why I have renewed vigour in the fight for animal welfare

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new... Read more

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on Antibiotic Resistance and the need to improve public awareness of this issue, along with research and development of new and improved antibiotics to be brought onto the market to tackle antibiotic resistance of bacteria. 


Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2017

You can read Sharon's speech here in Hansard: Antibiotic Resistance Westminster Hall Debate 09.03.17

Speech pasted below:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) on bringing this important debate to the House. He gave an eloquent and knowledgeable speech clearly setting out the issue and the matters to be discussed following the O’Neill review. I thank him for that.

An estimated 50,000 deaths occur every year due to untreatable infections, rising to 700,000 globally. That is why it is only right that we do all we can to address antibiotic resistance. It is believed that the number of deaths will rise to 10 million a year by 2050 if no significant action is taken. As we have heard from a number of Members, deaths from drug-resistant infections could exceed deaths from cancer.

This is an incredibly timely debate. Only a couple of weeks ago, the World Health Organisation published a list of 12 bacteria for which new antibiotics are now needed. Some strains of bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to fight off treatments that can then be passed on to other bacteria via genetic material to make them drug-resistant too. I find it a bit scary to consider what we are up against. This is a battle that we have to win.

I also thank other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) gave a very knowledgeable speech about the use of antibiotics in farming; other hon. Members touched on the subject as well. I really think we need to get a firm grip on it internationally, with the UK leading the way. Ten other Members spoke in this very active debate: my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron), my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), the hon. Members for Erewash (Maggie Throup), for Bosworth (David Tredinnick), for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson), for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), and the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who speaks for the Scottish National party. Their speeches were all thoughtful and knowledgeable, albeit brief because of time constraints.

I will touch on two key points: raising public awareness, and supporting research and innovation to combat antibiotic resistance. It is generally accepted that antibiotic resistance is a natural process—bacteria naturally evolve to become resistant to certain drugs used to fight them off—but it has been exacerbated by humans. As Dr Hsu of the Singapore Infectious Diseases Initiative has said, the causes come down to

“a single axiom—abuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs.”​

Concerns have also been raised that the development of new antibiotic drugs has dried up, contributing to the situation. According to the World Health Organisation, we are left in a precarious position. The WHO’s director general, Dr Margaret Chan, describes antimicrobial resistance as

“a crisis that must be managed with the utmost urgency.”

That urgency applies here in the UK, too. In 2014, the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said that

“we could be taken back to a 19th century environment where everyday infections kill us as a result of routine operations.”

We could be taken even further back: as the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said, this could be the new black death. That is not as melodramatic a statement as people may first think. Antimicrobial resistance is a really serious problem that we need to address here and now, so that those predictions do not come true.

I do not always do this, as I am sure you have noticed, Mr Hollobone, but I must give credit to David Cameron’s coalition Government, who were global leaders when they announced Lord O’Neill’s review into antimicrobial resistance. The review’s 10 recommendations show just how complex and multifaceted the issue is and how wide-scale the actions needed to address it are. The review’s final report was published in May 2016 and the Government responded at the end of last year, so now is a good time to ask the Government for an update.

One of the review’s key recommendations was to introduce a large-scale global awareness campaign to reduce the demand from patients to be prescribed antibiotics when they are diagnosed with an illness. I am a firm believer in public awareness campaigns relating to health issues, especially cancer. My hon. Friends and I fully support such a campaign for antimicrobial resistance and we want to see the Government working hard to achieve it. The review’s recommendation was for an international awareness campaign, but what does the Minister plan to do here in the UK to complement that international work? That is a pertinent question because a 2015 Wellcome Trust study found that people in the UK did not fully understand antibiotic resistance and how it affects their health. They did not understand that antibiotic resistance is to do with the bacteria in people’s bodies, rather than a lack of antibiotics or the cost of them; it is not just a case of doctors being awkward. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister told us what relatable public awareness campaigns she is planning to ensure that people understand more about the problem and about what they can do personally.

I have already mentioned the problems with combating antibiotic resistance caused by the drying up of innovative developments in drug technologies. The O’Neill review identifies that the low commercial return on research and development for antibiotics makes them less attractive to pharmaceutical companies and reduces the chance of new drugs being developed. To reverse that situation, it recommends considering market entry rewards to encourage companies to develop new or improved drugs, especially in areas of urgent need. I hope the Minister will explore that issue further in her reply.

Public and private funding is being made available to help to combat these issues. On 20 December, the Minister referred to

“international programmes to tackle AMR, including the Fleming fund and the Global AMR innovation fund, which represent ​more than £300 million of investment over the next five years.”—[Official Report, 20 December 2016; Vol. 618, c. 1294.]

There is also the incredible work of the Longitude Prize, which is in the middle of its competition to develop

“a cheap, accurate, rapid and easy-to-use point of care test kit for bacterial infections”

to help to address antibiotic resistance. That is important work and we support it.

In summary, we cannot afford to get antimicrobial resistance wrong. Millions of lives depend on our tackling it. It is not far away; it is happening right here, right now, and it affects us all, so it is important that we do all we can to address this growing problem, both in the UK and internationally.

Antibiotic Resistance Westminster Hall Debate 07.03.17

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on Antibiotic Resistance and the need to improve public awareness of this issue, along with research and...

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to redesign the British passport post-Brexit.

The unofficial competition is a way for professional designers, non-designers and students from across the UK to join a conversation on the future of Britain, post-Brexit, through the medium of art by using the British passport as the canvas.

The top prize for the winning design will be £1000, with second place winning £500 and third place winning £250.

Following the competition, the winning designs will be published in Dezeen magazine and exhibited at the Design Museum in London, with a wider selection of entries exhibited at Clerkenwell Design Week in London in May 2017.

Along with Sharon, the other judges include: Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum; Rohan Silva, founder of Second Home and former government policy advisor; Margaret Calvert, graphic designer; Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic for the Guardian, and; Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen.

The judges will be looking for a combination of a strong overall idea, good execution, practicality and a convincing justification for their design.

Sharon said:

“Creativity and artistic expression are uniting forces, and at a time when the country seems more divided than it as ever been, it is important that we all come together and look to a positive future for Britain.

“That is why I am delighted to be involved in Dezeen’s Brexit Passport competition, which aims to bring people together through the medium of art and using the canvas of what the British passport will look like once we leave the EU.

“I hope as many people as possible, including my own constituents, will get involved in this competition, from top designers to the next budding designer looking for their artistic break, and showcase to the world a positive outlook on the future of Britain, post-Brexit.”

You can read more about the competition, including rules and the entry form, by following this link:

Sharon joins judging panel for Dezeen's Brexit Passport Competition

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to...

Sharon is backing the Royal Mail Children’s Stamp Competition which will see children across the country showcase their creative designs featured on the official Christmas stamp for 2017.

This will be the fourth time in Royal Mail’s history that the official Christmas stamp has been designed by children – previous years included 1966, 1981 and 2013, and this year’s stamp could be designed by a child from Washington and Sunderland West.

The theme of the competition this year is: “What does the Christmas season mean to you?”. Out of the submissions, two designs will be selected by a panel of judges and these two winning designs will feature on the 1st Class and 2nd Class stamps this Christmas.

The stamps will also be approved by the Queen herself, who approves all special stamps that go out via Royal Mail. This means the winning designs will appear on millions of letters and parcels that are sent over the Christmas period.

All entries must be received by the closing date of Friday 17th March 2017, and details about getting one of the 8,000 available resource packs can be found by visiting:

Sharon said:

“Creativity is something we should always aim to nurture and support, that is why I am backing Royal Mail’s Children’s Stamp Collection so the next generation of artists and designers can have their creative visions featured up and down the country during the Christmas period this year.

“I hope that parents and primary schools in my constituency will get involved with this competition and help light the spark of creativity within our children so they can inspire to become the next top designer or famous artist, and celebrate all that the UK talent has to offer when it comes to creativity.”


Sharon backs Royal Mail Children's Stamp Competition

Sharon is backing the Royal Mail Children’s Stamp Competition which will see children across the country showcase their creative designs featured on the official Christmas stamp for 2017. This will...

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. 



Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of passing the Article 50 Bill which will see Parliament allow the Government to trigger Article 50 in March; however, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other issues going on which are just as important.

Last week, I attended a debate on Maintained Nursery Schools and the worry is that this jewel in the crown of our education system is under threat from this Government’s changes to the Early Years Funding Formula.

Here in Sunderland, we are lucky to have nine good nursery schools providing for the local communities, with four in my own patch in Washington and Sunderland West. H

owever, there are concerns that the changes in the funding for Nursery Schools here in Sunderland could drop from £5.38 an hour to £5.11. It may seem like a small change, but it is the difference between survival and closure for many nursery schools.

I have always been a champion of improving our early year’s education in this country. Giving children the best start in life is paramount to improving social mobility and giving all children the opportunity in life to achieve great things.

There has also been a lot going on regarding cancer in Parliament, and in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, I have been working hard on this issue especially in the lead up to World Cancer Day (which took place last weekend).

Firstly, we had a debate on Kadcyla – a breast cancer drug which can extend terminally-ill women’s life for many months, sometimes years – which is being removed by NICE and then research by Cancer Research UK released last week showed the impact that inaction on prevention measures – such as smoking and obesity – could mean more women developing cancer faster than men in the next 20 years.

Brexit may be taking all the headlines, but this Government is implementing policy decisions that if not addressed in a sensible way, will have ramifications on the long-term health of our country.


In my last few columns, I have mentioned that I am holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, along with a questionnaire, and held the first of two public meetings last month and the next will be on February 25 in South Hylton. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at or on 0191 417 2000 to register.

ECHO COLUMN: Parliament is not just about Brexit

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.    Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jan-Feb 2017 number 92


Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan-Feb 2017 number 92

Sharon Hodgson MPs report Jan-Feb 2017 number 92

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jan-Feb 2017 number 92 Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan-Feb 2017 number 92 Read more

Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on Maintained Nursery Schools and the impact of changes in the Early Years Funding Formula and what this will mean for local maintained nursery schools.

sharon_maintained_nurseries_debate.jpgImage copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2017

You can read Sharon's speech here on Hansard: Maintained Nursery Schools Westminster Hall Debate 01.02.17

Speech pasted below:

9.59 am

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

I am very happy to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I want to make a small contribution to this very important debate, because I passionately believe that nursery schools are a vital contributor to social mobility in this country. There is ample evidence to show that maintained nursery schools that offer high-quality early education can have profound impacts on the start of children’s lives. That is why it is not surprising that nursery schools have been described as the “jewel in the crown” of the education system. However, the current Government are allowing the crown to be tarnished by going down a route that will place all nursery schools under threat. That is especially true for children in some of the most deprived communities in the country.​

As was said at the last meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on nursery schools and nursery classes, which my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) so excellently chairs, it was estimated in 2011 that 80% of three-year-olds from the most deprived areas attended a setting with a qualified early years professional compared with just 50% in more affluent areas. That was surely a good thing.

In my own constituency, Washington and Sunderland West, there are four maintained nurseries: Hylton Red House, Usworth Colliery, Oxclose and Pennywell Early Years Centre. I understand that I am lucky because there are four good maintained nursery schools in my constituency, but that also shows the demographics of my constituency. It must be pointed out that Sunderland has one of the highest numbers of these nurseries within our local authority area—a total of nine.

The Government have partially redeemed themselves with transitional arrangements. That is welcome, as it will help to mitigate any problems that nursery schools face due to the cuts in their funding. However, it must be said that funding will still be reduced and the transitional subsidy may not continue—the Minister may tell us otherwise this morning—after the two years are up.

In Sunderland, the baseline funding rate for three and four-year-olds for 2016-17 stood at £5.38 per hour, but through the early years national funding formula that will decrease to £5.11 per hour. That might not sound like much of a decrease, but it is per hour and it is the difference between survival and closure. As the Social Mobility Commission has stated:

“It would be a travesty if funding reforms mean that over time we lose more of the remaining high-quality, maintained nursery schools.”

I could not agree with that more, and I hope that the Minister agrees with it, too.

The concerns expressed have been echoed by staff and parents at my local nursery schools—they have all been in touch with me. Claire Nicholson, the local headteacher of Pennywell Early Years Centre, has told me that

“such a big percentage is going to be lost, that it won’t allow us to be viable”.

Also, nearly 100 parents at Pennywell Early Years Centre, in a letter they sent to me, have described their disbelief and dismay at the policy and the direction in which the Government are taking early years education.

These schools are a proven and vital part of our country’s strategy for improving social mobility, which is something we desperately need to be doing more of, not less. It is important that the Government do all they can to give children the best start in life. That is why many of us in this House, and specifically in this Chamber today, got into politics, and we will hold Ministers to account every step of the way on this matter. I urge the Minister not to squander the life chances of any of the children in this country, especially those in the most deprived communities. Our young constituents do not deserve this, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider for their sake.

Maintained Nursery Schools Westminster Hall Debate 01.02.17

Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on Maintained Nursery Schools and the impact of changes in the Early Years Funding Formula and what this will mean for local maintained...

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon was invited to speak to a group of Socialist Health Association members in the North East about public health and prevention. In her speech, Sharon raised concerns over the progress of the Five Year Forward View's promise of a "radical upgrade in prevention and public health" and how the crisis and mismanagement the NHS is facing is currently not allowing this promise to be fulfilled.


You can read Sharon's speech below:


Thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning.

The Socialist Health Association is an organisation of academic specialists, medical practitioners and those with health interests within the organisation, and I know that myself and the rest of the Shadow Health team greatly appreciate the work you do to support Labour’s approach to all matters related to health policy.

Health inequality is an issue which we continually need to work on to get right, especially here in the North, where it is well documented that our region and other northern regions have persistently poorer health than the rest of the country. This gap has widened over the last four decades.

Figures show this to be the case, with latest public health outcomes data showing that the North-East and the North-West have the lowest life expectancy compared to London and the South-East, which have the highest.

It was highlighted in the Due North report that since 1965, there have been 1.5 million excess premature deaths in the North due to the disparity in health outcomes.

This is something that cannot be ignored.

This shows what we all know to be true: people in the more deprived areas of the country do not live as long as those in more affluent areas.

This is exacerbated by the fact that those short lives can also be unhealthy lives. Long-term health conditions, cancer prevalence, and addictions are all far more common in more deprived areas of the country.

It is not only the health of people which is affected by health inequalities, but also there is an economic argument to be made too. In England, as a whole, the cost to the NHS of treating illnesses and diseases arising from health inequalities is estimated at £5.5 billion a year, and ill-health means a loss to industry of £31 to £33 billion each year in productivity.

If we are to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities in our region, and indeed across the country where there are pockets of persistent inequality, then it is important that we look at how our health and social services are working now and how we need to ensure services are working towards improving the health of our nation, especially through prevention.

The NHS, Social Care and Public Health Funding

It goes without saying that this winter saw our NHS face unprecedented challenges which has pushed it virtually to the brink.

In the week of 9th January to 15th January, we saw 69 trusts out of 152 reporting serious operational pressures at some point during that given week – with the average deemed to be 50 Trusts a day reporting operational pressures.

There are countless stories in the media about the pressures the NHS is facing, and sadly, the Government have buried their heads in the sand and acted as if the issue isn’t as bad as it is in reality.

Whilst we are seeing the NHS facing a crisis, we are also seeing yet another reorganisation of services at a local level through Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).

Whilst in principle, the idea of improving integrated services through STPs is a welcome idea, there are real and perceived concerns on the ground – not just here in the North, but across the country – that the efficiency savings are all about cuts, rather than improving clinical services for patients.

Pair all of this with the pressures in adult social care services, which saw a cut in funding of £4.6 billion in the last Parliament and experts warning there is an expected £1.9 billion funding gap in social care this year alone, then there is no wonder why there is no ability to seriously address health outcomes and inequalities.

Even in my own area of policy – public health - we are beginning to see what could be a crisis.

Whilst the total spend on public health is just over 4% of GDP, the then Chancellor in 2015, announced a £200 million in-year cut to the pot of money, and then in the Autumn Statement announced an average, real-terms cut of 3.9% until 2020.

It is estimated that that by 2020-21, public health funding will fall to just over £3billion, compared to the £3.47billion in 2015-16.

Even though the Government has ring-fenced this money when it reaches local authorities, there is no guarantee it will continue in the next spending round in 2018.

It is hypothetical what will happen, but when local authorities are strapped for cash already, if the ring fence is removed, there is a real concern that those councils with difficult decisions to make may take from this budget to plug other areas.

This can in some way be backed by current figures on the cuts we are seeing to public health services, as reported in the Health Select Committee’s report: Public Health, post-2013, where they cited figures by the Association of Directors of Public Health.

These figures showed the stark impact of the cuts we are already seeing. Take for example, health checks in 2015-16 which saw a cut of 27% and soared to 59% in 2017-17 with a 1% decommissioning.

Or weight management support which saw a 32% reduction and 9% decommissioning in 15-16, which then rises to 52% reduction and 12% decommissioning in 2015-16.

What we are seeing in the NHS, social care and public health is a complete mismanagement and lack of commitment to fund these important services properly.

This is something I have raised with Health Ministers across the House of Commons: if you cut from one area in the health and social care service, you will see a knock on affect in others.

This has unsurprisingly been met with disregard from ministers who fail to recognise the impact their mismanagement is having on these vital services and the health of the country.

It must be remembered, that for a region – such as our own – where ill-health and health inequalities are clearly apparent that this approach to our health services will have a serious impact on regions which are already at the lower end of the spectrum of dealing with health problems.

Yet, also this approach, especially to public health, goes completely against NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, which promised: “a radical upgrade in prevention and public health” and the Prime Minister’s own commitment to reduce health inequalities when she took office.

It is clear that the radical upgrade and desire to address these issues are not being met. In fact, it could be described as going backwards, or at best, staying still. Neither option is a welcome one.

However, if we remember the state of the NHS currently, which is fighting crisis after crisis every day, then it is not surprising that this worthy commitment to prevention and reducing health inequalities is not being worked towards.

How do we address this?

What we need to see is this radical upgrade made a central theme to any approach to improve services and not see them cut to the bone.

For me, improving the health of our nation is not just a health priority but a social justice one as well.

Because of persistent ill-health and poor health outcomes, people here in the North are not being allowed to reach their fullest potential and instead held back by inaction to improve their health, both through interventions but also providing them with the tools to improve their health themselves.

To do this, the NHS needs to bring forward a new funding settlement for the NHS and social care in the upcoming Budget, which will not only give the NHS the vital funding it needs to deal with increasing pressures, but also in order that it can begin to achieve its vision of radically upgrading prevention and public health as called for in the Five Year Forward View.

This should also include a rethink on the current approach to public health – the false economy of reducing funding when pressures remain the same, or increased, shows a complete lack of joined up thinking by the Government. And this is something I will push them to rethink at every available opportunity that I have as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health.

It seems illogical to me that you cut prevention budgets, which will just present problems further down river in the NHS which as we know is already facing difficulties when coping with the demands it has now.

However, it cannot all be about funding. Labour’s approach at the last General Election was two-fold: one, ensuring interventions happen when necessary, especially at younger ages to correct bad habits which could lead to ill-health in adulthood, and second, ensuring that adults have the tools in their arsenal to make healthy lifestyle choices to live fulfilling lives.

This is something that I hope to continue to build upon in my time as Labour’s spokesperson on public health and ensure that any policies we propose will help seriously shift us away from the current situation where persistent health inequalities remain the norm.


To end, health inequalities are a serious issue that cannot be ignored. Reports after reports have shown that we have not made many serious inroads into health inequalities, and that is why it calls for a radical approach which doesn’t weaken the already fragile state of affairs we are seeing.

With innovation and political will, we can ensure the gap in health inequalities shrinks and health outcomes improve. To do this, we need that step change in ethos called for in the Five Year Forward View towards prevention but an NHS which itself is healthy enough to seriously begin to work towards this vision – if that does not happen, then it will never be achieved.

I hope in the discussions that we can start the process of doing just that, and I hope that you will all feed your thoughts and ideas into the Health and Social Care Commission.

Thank you. 

Sharon speaks at the North East's Socialist Health Association's seminar on public health

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon was invited to speak to a group of Socialist Health Association members in the North East about public health and...

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