Francis Maude: Young people developing many life skills

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

On Friday I spent a busily packed (and very wet!) day in and around Horsham – a great reminder of just how diverse and absorbing the life of an MP can be.

My youngest constituents were three year 10 girls from Millais who are launching a campaign to make PSHE [personal, social and health education] lessons compulsory in all schools. You might not immediately think that this is a matter of huge importance, but it is to their credit that they are thinking of tomorrow’s young adults and the life skills they will need to be socially and economically responsible citizens.

There’s a choice for the government between a national curriculum that is streamlined to allow schools to concentrate on the basics and one where we add more and more desirable elements. I generally favour the former but it’s a worthwhile debate and I welcome their initiative.

Next was a meeting with a group of neighbours at Tanbridge Park who formed a team some years ago to clean debris from the River Arun and help maintain the river walk. They are naturally concerned about the recent water levels although luckily have avoided flooding so far, and also the state of the banks as trees fall out of the sodden ground, bringing soil and other plants with them which would normally serve to hold the bank together. They are committed to this social action project and it is good to see the way in which people are quietly helping themselves and each other to look after their local environment.

I held a series of meetings at my office in Horsham which varied between discussions on social care and the Healthwatch budget, a distressing case of an elderly patient with dementia having been very badly treated in Langley Green Hospital, and a local planning issue about an interesting new small business.

I then made a visit to Our Club, an inspiring project which aims to develop confidence and skills in 18-24 year-olds who are actively job seeking. The students were completing their second week of full time training before going out into work placements, many of which will end in employment, and I was struck by the way in which they all said that two weeks ago they would not have dreamt of being able to stand up and present in front of a group of their peers and how naturally they had since learned to do it. These young people are now far better equipped to get jobs, and will in turn inspire others to develop the same robust practical skills which they have just learned themselves: all in all a great joined-up system.