I always think that the start of the new year is about hope. We have made it through the longest, darkest nights of winter and now there are brighter, lighter times ahead.
This said, there is much that is unsettling in the world right now. Dangerous tensions in North Korea threaten the world’s peace. Uncertainties in the Middle East endanger stability. Interference by foreign powers in western democracy are opening a strange new front in old political rivalries.
But amongst this all, there are reasons to be cheerful. Something that has delighted and inspired me over Christmas is the news that children’s reading standards in our primary schools have soared. In 2012 only 58% of six-year-olds passed their reading tests, today it is 81%. The reforms that this Government has made are now bearing fruit – big juicy fruit at that – in one of the most important areas of life. As a former teacher and the son of teachers I know only too well that if young pupils don’t get the basics they don’t stand a chance of being able to succeed later in their education. Whilst some people still go on to do well in life, the majority do not. These new statistics can give us great hope in the future of our children and in our education system.
I tend to visit a local school every week during term time – so if there’s a school or educational project you’d like me to visit, please let me know. And if any young person you know (or indeed any older person) would like a tour of the House of Commons, again, just get in touch.
2017 was an extraordinary year for me – my wife and I had a baby at the start of the year (about 12 weeks before the Prime Minister called the General Election), some people who we knew and loved passed away, and, of course, I became the local MP. This has brought me into contact with a huge number of fascinating local people, their talents and strengths, their outlooks and wisdom. A year ago, I could never have guessed this might happen. As I reflected at the Lighting Up Shenfield event, none of us really know quite what the future has in store.
All the very best for 2018 and please do contact me if ever I can help with anything www.alexburghart.org.uk.