Column: Politically speaking with Ed Balls

MP Ed Balls speaks at the official opening of Morley Newlands' new building.
MP Ed Balls speaks at the official opening of Morley Newlands' new building.
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The tragic death of two local boys at the weekend has hit the town hard.

Rhys and George were pupils at Bruntcliffe School and Morley Academy and had their whole lives ahead of them.

Ed Balls MP.

Ed Balls MP.

It is impossible to imagine what a terrible and devastating shock this will be for their parents and loved ones. The thoughts and deepest sympathies of us all are with their families and friends.

Morley Newlands welcomed pupils and staff into its fantastic new building last September but the official opening finally took place on Friday with the whole school in attendance in their amazing new school hall. And what a fabulous celebration it was.

From the opening song, Everybody’s Building, to the finalé with I Can Sing a Rainbow, being sung and signed by the entire school, the Morley Newlands children were brilliant. There were robots, gymnastics, a celebration of the children’s art and great speeches from children too.

It was a real honour to formally open the school. Having the chance to open a new school is one of the best things about being a Member of Parliament. When I was Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I opened dozens. But in recent years, with the cancelling of the Building Schools for the Future programme, there have been fewer school buildings built, and so opening ceremonies, like the one Newlands on Friday, have become a much rarer occurrence.

The new school here in Morley is the first new school to be built in the whole of my constituency since 2010 and only the third in the whole of Leeds to have been opened since 2010.

And yet the buildings in which we educate our children are so important. Learning in a bright, modern building with state of the art facilities and energetic, motivated teachers and support staff makes a massive difference. The old Morley Newlands building was falling apart, the roof leaked, the hall was too small. And as some children said on Friday, “it smelled.”

Many of the children who sat in the Newlands school hall on Friday will live to be 100 years old. If we are to ensure they make the most of the 21st century and get the chance to become the best they can be, they need world class education from their teachers delivered in world-class buildings. They now have that in this wonderful new building.

As I know from my case work here in Morley we have a massive shortage of school places in our area. And so the good news is that the new Morley Newlands school also creates many more, much-needed school places for our town. We need more but this is a step in the right direction.

It’s a testimony to all the local leaders and councillors from all parties who have campaigned for the school that the building is now up and open. Particular thanks are due to Leeds City Council, who with their own budgets under immense pressure, found £9m of the £10m the new school has cost to ensure the building went ahead. At a time when there is such pressure on school places locally it’s good to see Leeds City Council putting the needs of the local community first.

There are lots of brilliant play centres around. But finding really good facilities for babies and young children with a disability is quite a challenge. So big thanks to one local Morley mum.

Because at the weekend Morley childminder Linda Holmes opened a new facility over in Dewsbury which could end up being a lifeline for many local parents.

Sensory Play in Dewsbury is a café and play centre aimed specifically at babies and children with a disability. It aims to provide a safe, calm environment and has specialist play equipment designed specifically for babies and children with a disability. There are lights, sounds, interactive walls, a dark room with water bed for babies. There is also a café for parents and there will be regular groups play sessions too.

I’ve met Linda a number of times over the years and it was a pleasure to open the centre for her on Saturday. Sensory World is a fantastic new resource for parents in our area.

Anyone who wants to find out more should contact Linda via the centre’s website – www.sensoryworldplaycentre.co.uk – or call her on 07801 065589.