Hastings Observer Column - 1 February

It is incredibly important to encourage children to read. The skills they learn, the confidence they gain and the curiosity it encourages remain with children for life.

So I was absolutely thrilled to help launch the Get Hastings Reading with the National Literacy Trust. As part of the launch, our town has received 600 new books and a visit from a poetry bus. These books will help children take the next step towards improving their literacy skills.

It’s not the only bit of book-worming I’ve done. I joined pupils at Silverdale Primary Academy to open their new library too and was happy to bring along some ‘Reading with Rudd’ bookmarks! I certainly enjoyed reading Ted Hughes’ “The Iron Man” to them. It was also a great honour to become an ‘ultimate ninja’ – a lovely parting gift from the school!

In Hastings, we are fortunate to be one of 12 Opportunity Areas across the country. The share of £72m from Government that we receive is being invested over three years with a focus on four priority areas: broadening horizons and preparing young people for work, improving mental health and resilience, raising attendance in maths and improving literacy. Over £125,000 has been allocated over the past year to seven projects to implement evidence-based approaches to improve literacy.

We have already begun to feel the effects of the Opportunity Area, with Hastings’ primary school results being above national average for the first time. It was great to see that fifteen of the seventeen schools have seen an improvement in the percentage of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.

I am delighted to be hosting an Inter-school Debating Tournament with our neighbouring MP, Huw Merriman. I will be inviting students from our local sixth forms to join me to compete in the tournament. I am confident that this event will prove to be an exciting learning opportunity for our young students – and hopefully encourage a few of our young people to participate more in politics!

I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Opportunity Area Board and also with the Department for Education to deliver the best possible education for our children in Hastings.