Category Archives: education

Medway’s MAGIC!


Mark Reckless, UKIP’s Parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood, yesterday visited Medway MAGIC. The “Medway Autism Group and Information Centre”, based in Cliffe Woods, is a charitable, non-profit organisation which relies on donations, sponsorship, and funding from the local council. After a brief introduction to the staff and volunteers Mark was given a guided tour of the centre by Gayna Simmonds, the CEO of MAGIC. Gayna, who has two autistic children herself, spoke passionately about the need for continued support from the government.

Having visited MAGIC at its previous base In Rochester in 2011, Mark was pleased to see the continued development and improvement of the services offered to children. Mark believes firmly in the importance of looking after the most vulnerable in society and securing support for good causes, while also championing exceptional local projects. The enthusiasm and dedication that was evident from speaking to the full-time staff and volunteers was especially encouraging for Mark, who has campaigned for a charter to improve mental health services for children with autism.

magic2MAGIC plays an important role as a haven for children who cannot cope in mainstream education, and offers respite care for parents and carers alike. The organisation is currently in the process of raising funds in an attempt to buy the building they currently occupy at auction, which would allow them to focus on the long term development of their facilities.

Mark Reckless said:

“I continue to be impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of Gayna and her team of volunteers at Medway MAGIC.

Having a child with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autistic Syndrome (ASD) can be challenging in terms of finding the right help and advice. Medway has, on average, double the normal level of autistic children, and has therefore a pressing need for a successful and well managed programme to assist in the development, support, and education of autistic children. Both the size of the centre, the breadth of the facilities available, and the general ethos were very impressive and encouraging for the future of the charity.

Medway MAGIC has done a great job in raising awareness of the issues surrounding children with Autism and I am proud to offer my continued support.”


Supporting Wainscott School


Cllr Tom Mason, Deputy Head Joan Brunnick-Ryan and Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood

I was delighted to visit Wainscott school this afternoon. There has been an extraordinary transformation from when I lived in Upnor and regularly walked past the school on the way to the Wainscott shops.

The old Victorian building and playground is now a privately run nursery. Fields behind have been transformed into an essentially new build school with capacity for an eventual 420 children. Two years of the full two form entry are now already happily ensconced at the school.

I was met by Peter Casselton, the Chair of Governors, who should be congratulated on steering the school through such a transformation. Congratulations also to newly promoted Deputy Head Joan Brunnick-Ryan. With Councillor Tom Mason joining us on our visit there was certainly strong Irish representation.

The challenge I am trying to help the school with is their drop-off and pick-up arrangements for parents and their children.



Mark Reckless is welcomed to Wainscott Primary by local parents, Cllr Tom Mason and Chair of Governors, Peter Casselton

During building of the new school slow worms were disturbed. Although the new entry road was allowed to be completed, the land between that and the A289 is now in effect a slow worm sanctuary.

The school was consequently not able to complete a proposed new pick-up and drop-off area. Parents are now faced with the choice of leaving older children to walk alone up the entry road, or parking outside to walk children to the pedestrian gate and wait with them.

Parking options outside the vehicular gate are few or not really appropriate, and the distance between vehicle and pedestrian gate is quite substantial.

An alternative gate off the footpath to Upnor (with which I am so familiar) is still available. However, not all parents are aware of this. The entry route through a new housing estate is also far from obvious, and its use not especially popular with some residents of that estate.

I met several parents this afternoon, including those who asked for my help, and there are various ideas for how the situation could be improved, including a potential new pedestrian crossing. I hope to be able to help them further.


While Wainscott school has this challenge with pick-up and drop-off arrangements, I know that many parents from further afield have hugely welcomed the chance to get their children into the school now it has two form entry. They include quite a number who travel from the Hoo Peninsula, including some for whom it is quite convenient because they commute on further for work.

I congratulate the school on its ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted and its success at Key Stage Two. I only wish I could say that about a higher proportion of our primary schools in Medway.

Summer Reading Challenge 2014

markreckless (2)Local MP Mark Reckless is supporting a campaign run by charity The Reading Agency to encourage all primary school children to join their local library and take part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – the UK’s largest reading for pleasure promotion for primary school children.

Research shows the Summer Reading Challenge increases children’s reading range and their enjoyment of reading significantly. It builds confidence and independent reading, while preventing the dip in children’s literacy levels during the long break from school.

A unique partnership between The Reading Agency and public libraries across the UK, the Summer Reading Challenge got a record 810,000 children reading in the summer holidays in 2013. With the support of local MPs, libraries, schools and a host of well-known children’s authors including Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo, even more children aged 4-11 will be encouraged to join the library and complete the challenge this year.

Children will also be encouraged to share their love of reading by recommending a book to friends, family and carers with a campaign called ‘pass-it-on’ this year. The campaign is intended to inspire them to share their reading choices. It is endorsed by the new National Curriculum, which suggests that pupils should be “recommending books that they have read to their peers, giving reasons for their choices.”

Mark Reckless MP said:

“I hope parents, grandparents and carers in Rochester and Strood will take their children to the library to sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge. It’s free, inclusive and makes reading fun – a vital ingredient in building literacy. Last year 3532 children in Medway took part in the Challenge. I hope we can increase that number this year and show local libraries what a valuable asset they are to us and our community.”

Each year the Challenge uses a new theme to inject fun and creativity into reading. The 2014 theme is “Mythical Maze”, illustrated by award winning Sarah McIntrye. Children sign up at the library and receive a mythical maze poster. As they borrow and read library books over the summer, children collect stickers of mythical creatures to complete their poster and discover facts about the creatures as they go. It’s a highlight of the holidays for thousands of children and families.

Children can go on the website to create a profile, chat about books, and get help on what to read next, via the digital Book Sorter which already offers over 300,000 peer to peer children’s book recommendations in child-friendly categories.

The Reading Agency is also working with SOLUS UK Ltd to add some “digital magic” to the 2014 Challenge – for the first time, librarians and families will be able to download a free mobile App onto their devices which will recognize key Mythical Maze illustrations and trigger audio visual content including videos, games and messages from the mythical creatures.

The Summer Reading Challenge reaches children and young people of all ages. For pre-schoolers there is a mini-challenge and for young people (aged 13 to 24) there is the opportunity to volunteer and support younger children taking part. Volunteering provides a quality workplace experience for young people in libraries, inspires them to think about future careers and increases their employability as they gain useful life skills and confidence. This year it is expected around 8,000 young people will volunteer.

Lord Graham Tope, CBE, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries said:

“Encouraging children to read is really important, as it not only builds literacy but confidence too. With the long school holidays fast approaching, the Summer Reading Challenge is a fantastic way to get kids reading in a fun and engaging way. I know it is popular with parents and children alike. This year’s theme, Mythical Maze, will no doubt push numbers even higher with its striking illustrations and fun mix of characters.”

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency said:

“Education policy makers understand the importance of children reading for pleasure. The Summer Reading Challenge which is developed and delivered in partnership with librarians across the UK is designed to keep children reading in the long summer break. It is the UK’s biggest children’s reading for pleasure promotion. Last year over 810,000 children took part with almost 67,000 because new library members to do so. What we hope is that everyone who takes part this summer really will find out that everything changes when we read.”

Ciara Eastell, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, said:

“We know how much fun families and children get out of taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge and re-discovering what their local library has to offer for the whole family.”

Follow the Summer Reading Challenge on Facebook at


Campaign success as Student Loans Company drops 0845 charges

WP_20140314_013Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, was delighted  by the announcement that, following representations which he made on behalf of constituents, the Student Loan Company is to cease their use of 0845 higher-rate numbers for student enquiries.

Following a meeting with local student Emma Laurence, pictured, Mark was able to make representations on behalf of all the local students who had signed Emma’s petition calling for the company to act fairly when dealing with enquiries.

In a letter to Mark, Mick Laverty, the Chief Executive of the Student Loans Company apologised for the expense which students may have previously incurred using the previous 0845 number, explaining:

“We used 0845 telephone numbers as our contact centres operate across several locations throughout the UK. Using the 0845 numbers allowed us to route calls to the next available advisor at any location, ensuring they were answered as quickly as possible.

However, following a review of our phone lines, I am happy to report that from 31 March 2014, we have switched all non-geographic contact telephone numbers we use from 0845 numbers, to 0300 numbers. This will allow us to continue to route calls across the various sites we have in operation and at the same time, reduce the cost of the call for our customers. I hope that all customers using this method of contact find this change beneficial. I would also encourage people to use our social media channels to contact us and access the web ( which provides information on our most common enquiries.”

Commenting on the news, Mark Reckless said:

“I am delighted that, following my representations on behalf of students in my constituency, the Student Loans Company has taken a pragmatic approach in reviewing the call charges which many students were incurring while making necessary enquiries.

The new 03 numbers allow organisations to have a single national point of contact without consumers having to pay extra to call them and cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and also must count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 and 02 calls. The rules on 03 numbers apply to calls from any type of line including mobile, BT, other fixed line or payphone.

This is good news for students in Rochester and Strood. I would like to thank Mike Laverty of the Student Loans Company for his prompt response to my representations. I would also like to thank and congratulate my constituent Emma Laurence who raised this matter with me in the first instance. I hope that this change will be of real financial benefit to those seeking to further their education and better themselves, wherever they may be.”

MP welcomes additional £1.9m funding for Medway schools

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the Government’s announcement that schools in Medway will receive £1.9 million extra funding in 2015/16 to address a historic unfairness in the way school funding is allocated.

This money is part of a proposed £350 million boost to the most underfunded local authorities. It represents a huge step towards removing the unfairness in the school funding system.

Responding to the news, Mark Reckless said:

“The school funding system which we inherited from Labour is unfair and resulted in pupils attracting very different levels of funding without good reason.

“As part of our long-term economic plan we are determined to deliver the best schools and skills for our young people so that they can get the skills they need to get on in life. This announcement is great news for Medway as it represents a huge step towards removing the unfairness in the school funding system.”

MP welcomes news that many more students in Rochester and Strood studying core subjects


Mark Reckless MP takes questions from Sixth Form students at Rochester Grammar School

Local MP, Mark Reckless has welcomed the news that the number of students studying for core academic subjects has risen by 86 per cent thanks to this Government’s English Baccalaureate.

In 2010 only 15.2 per cent of pupils in Rochester and Strood studied for the EBacc, but this rose to 23.8 per cent in 2013, with 21.4 per cent achieving the qualification, a rise of 81.4%.

Pupils achieve the EBacc if they get a C or better in the core subjects of English, maths, history or geography, the sciences, and a language. These are the subjects most valued by universities and employers. This is the first year that the effects of the EBacc are fully reflected in the tables.

Mark Reckless MP commented:

‘Under the last Labour Government the number of students sitting exams in these crucial academic subjects halved.

Thanks to this Government’s reforms, the number of young people in Rochester and Strood studying the core subjects which will help them find a good job or university place has soared.

This is part of our long-term plan to create an education system that gives young people who want to work hard the skills they need to get on in life.’

MP welcomes £7m for new school places in Medway


Mark Reckless MP meets pupils from Cedar Primary in Strood

Local MP, Mark Reckless has welcomed the news that the Government has announced an extra £2.35 billion to create more school places. This is in addition to the £5 billion which is already being spent in this parliament. This means that between 2014 and 2017 schools in Medway will receive £7,099,493. This is part of the Government’s long-term plan to give every young person the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

It is the first time that councils have had 3-year allocations of funding to spend on school places, so Medway Council can plan ahead and ensure every child has a school place. This Government has already created 260,000 new school places and this announcement means thousands more are on the way.

Mark Reckless MP commented:

‘The last Labour government ignored the fact that rising birth rates meant we will need thousands more school places in the coming years, and did nothing to prepare.

It is great news for young people in Rochester and Strood that this Government has found billions of extra funding to ensure every child has a place at school so that they can fulfil their potential.

This is part of our long-term plan to create an education system which gives young people who want to work hard the skills they need to get on in life and have a more secure and better future.’

Michael GoveEducation Secretary Michael Gove said:

‘Labour were warned repeatedly that they hadn’t done enough to plan for a growing population – and once more it’s been left to the Coalition Government to clean up the mess.

‘Labour cut 200,000 primary places, slashed the amount spent on areas of population growth, and let immigration soar – and all this in the middle of a baby boom.

‘The Coalition Government has, however, taken swift action to repair the damage. We have more than doubled funding for new school places and we are also setting up great new free schools, which are giving parents a choice of high quality school places in areas Labour neglected.

‘Ed Miliband is too weak to apologise for the shortage of school places his government left behind and too weak to stand up to the unions and back free schools.’