It was good to get back to Ongar after a busy three days talking about skills and apprenticeships at the Conservative Party Conference as part of my new brief as a Junior Minister in the Department of Education. As always in the constituency, there’s little time to sit around and I found myself heading to the Epping Forest District Council offices in Epping for a very productive meeting with Shelley councillor, Nigel Bedford, and EFDC officers who have been working on community projects in the area.
It’s clear Nigel and the Public Health Improvement team have an excellent grasp of the needs of the Shelley community and are working on plans to improve local public space and provide additional services for the community. I look forward to following their work as it comes to fruition.
The Council is also working to replant the Cripsey Brook and improve the built environment of Shelley, in addition to setting up a scheme to help children get ready to start school. This is an exciting project and makes the work of headteachers, like Helen Russell at the Chipping Ongar Primary School in Ongar, that little bit easier.
I was very pleased to be able to meet Helen at last after a previous visit had to be postponed due to Covid, and visit this wonderful school which has recently been refurbished. A highlight was hearing about ‘Elfridges’ - a Christmas shop held at the school where the children can make purchases. A splendid idea - although I apologise for mentioning Christmas as early as mid October. That said, I will be launching my Christmas card competition for primary schools in the next fortnight so please ask your children and grandchildren to take a look at my website to find out what they need to do to enter.