• Out and About

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    16 February 2018

    Last week I had the pleasure of visiting 2 of our primary schools. There are 46 state schools in our constituency and I do my best to stay in touch. In Bradninch Alison Bourne and her team run the Duchy School. Members of the school council showed me around this excellent primary – it achieved ‘Outstanding’ status in its last Ofsted inspection. In Bow I was shown around by Head Teacher Lesley Hodgson. Like Bradninch this is an excellent local school and achieved ‘Good’ all round in its last Ofsted.  I always feel that you can quickly gauge how well run a school is within minutes of walking through the door. Key signs are well behaved children focusing on their lessons and a general sense of order. As someone whose parents, due to economic hardship had to leave school at 15 and 14 years and whose own life was transformed by a free place at a grammar school, I feel especially strongly about the vital important of a good education. Good primary schools set up their pupils for a successful start at secondary school and life beyond, so a huge thank you to Alison and Lesley and their hard working teachers for all they do. In Okehampton I met up with long-term railway campaigner Cllr Michael Ireland. Michael has a real passion for rail and has worked hard with myself and the local community to press for a regular rail service between Okey and Exeter. During my own campaigning I brought then rail minister Claire Perry and Sir Patrick McLoughlin the then Secretary of State for Transport to Okehampton to walk the track and discuss the possibilities. I have also met several times with current Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and also ensured that when we had the Okey to Paddington special service last year that Paul Maynard the then rail minister was there to meet and be lobbied by us. The good news is that Chris Grayling has now instructed GWR to provide a report on how a regular service can be reinstated at the earliest practical opportunity. These developments take time – they will require significant investment – but we are constantly moving forward. Also last week I caught up with Stuart Rogers the Postmaster in Ashburton and gave him the good news that I have secured agreement from the new Economic Secretary to the Treasury to meet with both of us to look at how we push forward with our efforts to ensure that our banks do more to promote the wide range of banking services that our local post offices provide. This is especially important in communities where the last bank has closed – something that is happening with increasing frequency as more and more banking business goes online. Ashburton is a model of how a local post office can thrive through a creative approach, the dedication of its hardworking team and backed up by strong community support. More from Mel on Twitter @MelJStride