PRESS RELEASE – Liberal Democrats welcome University Entry All-Time High

Shadow Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr Diane Williamson, has welcomed news that more young people are applying for higher education courses than ever before, including a record number from disadvantaged backgrounds, UCAS figures out 30th January show.

Cllr Williamson said: “Application rates for young people are now at an all-time high record level. There was a lot of scaremongering by Labour about tuition fees, but thankfully young people have seen through the false and deliberately misleading accusations, and are applying to university in record numbers.

“What is especially pleasing is to see the increased numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, now almost one in five, applying for a university place”.

The UCAS figures show that:

Application rates for young people are at a record level of 35.5 per cent (England).

  • The rate of disadvantaged students applying to study higher education has hit an all-time high with 18-year-olds living in the most disadvantaged areas in England 72 per cent more likely to apply to higher education in 2015 than nine years ago.
  • The entry rate in 2014 for the most disadvantaged has risen to 18.2 per cent, up from 14 per cent in 2010.
  • Total acceptances in higher education (14/15) at their highest ever level.

On tuition fees, Cllr Williamson added:

“Everyone knows that regrettably, as the junior partner in a Conservative dominated coalition government, the Liberal Democrats were unable to deliver the policy we wanted on tuition fees.

“But the Liberal Democrats then worked non-stop to create a whole new system, creating a graduate tax that means graduates only pay later in life, when they can afford it, with the wealthiest paying the most. Students now pay nothing up front – going to university depends on your ability, not your ability to pay. You only start to pay back once you earn over £21,000. If you earn less you pay nothing”.

Oldham Council Motion – First Aid In Schools

At last night’s Council meeting, I spoke about First Aid needed to be taught in schools, primary and secondary.

My speech is below:

Nationally over 600 young people die every year from sudden cardiac arrest with 270 these deaths happening in schools.

As we all know the school population, by its very nature, changes over a number of years.  Staff as well as pupils move on so there is always a need for first aid together with CPR to be taught to that new generation of children.

It has been proved over and over again how very young children can make vital decisions in emergency situations – which surprise a lot of adults.

Two stories to tell you:

In Staffordshire, a group of six 15 year olds saved a pensioner who had a nasty fall outside a shopping centre.  He had knocked himself unconscious and was bleeding.  They had been on a first aid training course a few weeks earlier and they all felt that whilst they did panic, they knew what to do.

In West Yorkshire, a nine year old boy was having dinner with his mum and 19 month old brother when his mum starting choking.  Mum pointed at her back and the young boy slapped her between the shoulder blades to try to force air out of her lungs to dislodge the food, but when this didn’t work, he didn’t hesitate and performed the emergency Heimlich manoeuvre.  Fortunately, at the beginning of the week he had spent time learning about emergencies at a police summer camp.

There are many more stories of how first aid training can save people’s lives and those were just a couple of them.

But what happens if someone’s heart stops?  People need to be able to perform CPR and use this in conjunction with first aid.

Heartstart Oldham started a programme called Hearstart Schools Programme in 2005 and covered 42% of schools within the first year and they continue to work closely with all schools within Oldham.

Every year, trainers go into Oldham Sixth Form College to teach the new cohort of pupils who are studying Health and Social Care within the Basic Life Support training.

At present Heartstart Oldham hold 30 to 40 training courses a year and the demand comes from the community and schools.  They have also raised funds for Automated External Defibrillator.

The most update to information I have received is that as part of the Healthy Schools Project and Heartstart they have been into 34 schools and funded 24 Defibrillators.

These Defibs are easy to use – even people who have never seen or used one before can.  They are not dangerous and an AED will not allow a shock to be given to someone unless they are in cardiac arrest.

After turning an AED on the user is guided at every step by voice prompts and some have visual displays for those with hearing problems.

Despite people’s concerns, nobody to date has been successfully sued for using an AED on a person in cardiac arrest – even in the USA.

Tragically, I know sometimes an incident happens and despite people’s best efforts, they are unable to revive a person.

Unfortunately, whilst I was Chair of Governors at Royton & Crompton School, a young man called Ashley Livesey, collapsed and died whilst on a cross country run.  The teacher and I believe some pupils, did all they could to save him, but unfortunately nothing could be done.  Ashley was one of the 600 people under the age of 35 in the UK who died of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.

This was not only a tragedy for his family and friends, but he was a great loss to the school community.  Because of what happened to Ashley, Gary and Julie, his Mum and Dad, as well as his twin sister Lucy, have raised funds for a Defibrillator in school.

I would personally like to praise them for all that they do and this is one of the reasons why I am moving this motion.

The Liberal Democrats nationally supported the proposals for First Aid to be taught in Primary and Secondary schools and want it to be included in the national curriculum through Personal, Social, Health, Education and Economic provision.

Sir Bob Russell, who is the Chair of the First Aid All Party Parliamentary Group, believes that by teaching these skills in schools we would have a million qualified First Aiders in a generation, which would then save countless lives.

So on that basis it would seem sensible that CPR and first aid training should be taught in schools.  I know within Oldham some of this is happening already, but we would like the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Education and others urging them to introduce First Aid as part of the national curriculum.

As for the AEDs that I have mentioned, I hope that the Director of Public Health will be able to come back to Council with a positive report on the possibility of phased funding and training for happen in Oldham.

Action: Overview and Scrutiny would look into this.

For more information on Heartstart please contact John Ashworth –

Hearstart Oldham

Oldham Youth Council – Purple Monkey Washing Machine Campaign

At last night’s Council meeting I was pleased to support, as part of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, the Youth Council’s I Love Me Campaign, which includes Purple Monkey Washing Machine.

For more information about Oldham Youth Council go to

My speech was as follows (the highlighted bit is from Lynne Featherstone MP’s speech on 29 February 2012):

Thank you to the Youth Council for bringing this forward and to the attention of the members in this Council chamber as well as to those watching online.

You might expect me to be standing up and speaking to this, because of the colour.

But in all seriousness I am standing up to speak to this motion on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. Our MP for Harringay Lynne Featherstone is a champion, she spoke in parliament on 29 February 2012 about body image.

As can be seen from I Love Me Campaign and the motion, there are two strands here, so firstly I would like to speak about one of the initiatives regarding the photo-shopping and altering of images.

I believe that one of the reasons photo-shopping started out was to remove blemishes in the background – ie flashes of lights etc – then obviously as technology has moved on, the ideas have moved on to such a stage where now if a celebrity has the slightest problem with their body when they see the pictures, then in comes someone to sort those issues out with a computer.

Unfortunately over the years this has led to the prolific use of images that have been photo-shopped. Not only are these pictures in magazines but now they are all over the Internet as well.  Now more than ever, more young people are suffering with self-esteem issues as well as other issues – this is for a number of reasons.

“The media constantly bombards people, but women and girls especially, with unrealistic images. They set an impossible standard, and place immense pressure on everyone, but women and girls in particular, to try and conform to a body type, shape, and even colour, that are completely unobtainable. These images have the potential to hugely damage self-esteem, crush confidence, and adversely affect health.

We need to challenge this culture of conformity and widen the definition of beauty to include all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities. And to help people to recognise that their value goes beyond just their physical appearance.”

Now onto the second part of your motion about giving a purple monkey to a young person who has helped in their community. I believe that this already happens in all our communities but we’re all just really busy getting on with our lives and forget to look around us sometimes.

Later on in the meeting I am speaking about first aid being taught in schools and I highlight a story where six young people performed first aid on an elderly gentleman who fell outside a shopping centre knocking himself unconscious. They were quick to act and stopped the bleeding whilst waiting for the ambulance.

Afterward they all said that they felt really good about themselves and it wasn’t only because they had helped this man but because they felt they had done something for the community and they also felt they would be looked at in a better light.

I’ve heard of the scheme ‘pay it forward’ before, where someone does something for one person and then that person performs another random act of kindness. The twist of having a monkey, purple or not, and giving that to a young person is really unique.

I certainly know of more than one young person who works very hard in Shaw and Crompton, who needs to be given a purple monkey to, and tweeting the picture!

I have bought along a purple monkey, but unfortunately I couldn’t bring the washing machine!  But we support this.

This is Ikibob!

PRESS RELEASE – Free School Meals will go down a Treat

Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Education and Safeguarding, Cllr Diane Williamson, is looking forward to the start of the new school year – because this year a Liberal Democrat initiative will make a big difference to the learning outcomes and the well-being of the youngest children in our classrooms and a big difference to the pockets of their wage-earning parents.

From day one of the new term, 9,800 Reception, Year One and Year Two primary school pupils in Oldham will be tucking into a free school meal. And all of their peers across the country will be doing exactly the same thing.

All thanks to £1 billion revenue ploughed into the scheme by Liberal Democrats in Government.

School food in Oldham is great. After a five year journey of improvement, started under a Liberal Democrat Council, our school meals service has just been awarded a prestigious ‘Gold Food for Life Catering Mark’ – only the third local authority in the country to achieve this honour – and the first in the North-West.

So pupils can look forward to a healthy, well-balanced, nutritious meal for lunch with ingredients sourced from local suppliers.

Cllr Williamson said:

“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this is one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation. I am entirely convinced the benefits for children and families will be enormous.  Free school meals will improve children’s education, make sure they eat more healthy food, and save parents money.  This policy has been five years in the making with successful pilot schemes which have reaped real benefits in the classroom.  Students were found on average to be two months ahead of their peers in areas where school meals were offered, and there was marked progress amongst pupils achieving targets in Maths and English at Key Stage One”.

However Cllr Williamson also stressed the social benefits of children sitting down to eat together:

“I also welcome the social benefits of getting groups of friends sat together for lunch.  Eating with friends is so important and I want it to become something youngsters look forward to each day.  Once again the pilots showed sitting down for lunch broadened their social skills and taught table manners”.

And of course, there are benefits for parents too, added Cllr Williamson:

“The Liberal Democrats are leading the fight in government to cut the cost of living.  We have championed increases in tax allowances so that employees now take home £800 more a year and have improved access to free child and nursery care to make it easier for parents to take up employment.  Now Oldham parents will no longer have to find £2 a day to pay for a school meal for their child; a saving of approximately £400 a year for every child.  Free school meals are yet another example of Liberal Democrat action in Government to create a fairer society and opportunity for everyone.  So I especially welcome today’s announcement by Lib Dem Schools Minister David Laws MP that all pupils up to the age of 11 would be eligible for a free school meal should the Liberal Democrats form part of the next Government”.

Congratulations to our Peers

The names of six new Lib Dem peers have been published today. They are:

Chris Fox – Director of Group Communications for GKN; former Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats

Cllr David Goddard – elected Member of Stockport Metropolitan Council; former Leader of Stockport Council; former Member of the Greater Manchester Police Authority; former Non-Executive Director of Manchester International Airport

Cllr Barbara Janke – elected Member and former Leader of Bristol City Council; former teacher

Cllr Kath Pinnock – elected Member and former Leader of Kirklees Council

Paul Scriven – managing partner for Scriven Consulting; former elected Member and Leader of Sheffield City Council; former senior NHS manager

Cllr Dr Julie Smith – elected Member of Cambridge City Council; Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at Cambridge University; Fellow of Robinson College

There’s an equal split of three men and three women and five of the six have direct experience of local government from around the country.

By the way, to the question of why do the Lib Dems continue to nominate new peers even while wanting to do away with the unelected House of Lords, the answer is very simple. It’s the same reason we contest elections under first-past-the-post while continuing to support its reform: you have to be in it to deliver change.

Nick Clegg had this to say about the new peers:

“Our new peers highlight the campaigning heartbeat of our party, standing up for their local areas and championing the Liberal Democrat cause to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society. I am delighted to welcome them all to our Parliamentary team. I know that every new peer on this list will make a valuable contribution to British politics, the House of Lords and the Liberal Democrat team in Westminster. Along with their Liberal Democrat colleagues, I am sure they will take up the mantle of being committed reformers and continue to make the case for a smaller and more democratic upper chamber.”