Category Archives: Victoria in North Oxfordshire
Born near Wolverhampton, I was three as World War II began. I remember hearing bomber planes and the noise of heavy guns and seeing the red night skies, reflecting the burning cities of Coventry and Birmingham, going into our neighbour’s air-raid shelter, and carrying a gas-mask to my Convent school. My mother was 21 in 1928 and had the vote. In 1918, she had been selected for the newly established mixed grammar school in Wolverhampton. My father had left school in London when he was 14. They were both strongly committed to their children’s education.
With a degree in French from Nottingham University, a degree in French from a French university and a teacher’s Diploma from London University, I was appointed to my first teaching post in 1961 – only to discover that I was earning considerably less than a less well-qualified man, because I was a woman. Parity for teachers’ pay took a graduated 7 years to arrive; the NUT (National Union of Teachers) lost many men who left in disgust to form the NAS (National Association of Schoolmasters). In 1966 I was promoted; having carefully saved my full deposit for a mortgage with a building society, I planned to purchase my first home. I applied to the building society, to be informed that they did not give mortgages to single women. I discovered that this was true of almost all building societies. Eventually I found one which, in view of my ‘secure job’, was prepared to take the risk!
In my subsequent promotions in mixed secondary schools, for the Deputy Headship of a mixed school of 700, then for the Deputy Headship of a mixed school of 2200, and for both my subsequent Headships, I was always, between 1968 and 1984, the only shortlisted female.
I was the first Head of a mixed non-selective school in Wiltshire, where the Senior Master was astonished that I was not prepared to cane the students! I was subsequently the first woman Chair of the Wiltshire Association of Head Teachers. I was the first female Head of a mixed non-selective school in Oxfordshire, when appointed in June 1984.
How often have I corrected the many writers of letters beginning: “Dear Sir..”, with – “you must not assume that this ‘Head’ is a man; I am certainly a woman”; and how often have I interjected in meetings and public gatherings when the “Headmasters” were referred to, with: “and the Headmistresses…”!!
When the CBI constituted its Business-Education leadership programmes, I was the only female board member and was invited to address the CBI annual conference of 1997. In 1991 I was invited to be the Education Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, albeit a woman.
As we move further into the 21st century, at last I find that in the various aspects of my post-professional community commitments, I am never the only woman!
Friday 12 January saw Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, host her second ‘New Residents’ Roadshow’ at Longford Park, Banbury.
With North Oxfordshire experiencing five times the national average of house building, Victoria was keen to meet those moving into her constituency and discuss any issues they have, particularly on the new developments. The second of her roadshows, hosted at Longford Park Primary School, took place on Friday evening, giving residents the chance to meet their MP and neighbours.
The event was well attended by people from across the development; key topics of conversation included street lighting, road safety, and community facilities. Cherwell District Council’s Community Development Partner, Rosie Phillips, also came along to offer her support.
After the roadshow, Victoria commented: “It was great to meet so many people of varying ages and welcome them to the area. I know there are a number of unresolved issues in Longford Park so it is helpful to chat to residents about their concerns or suggestions.
I look forward to taking my roadshow back to Bicester in March and then return to a new development in Banbury later on this year.”
Pupils at schools in Cherwell local police area competed against each other to create a logo for the Safeguarding Children In Banbury Group.
The Safeguarding Children In Banbury Group is made up of primary and secondary schools, Locality and Community Support Service teams, Police and other partner agencies. The groups aim is to get schools to work collaboratively to identify and deliver suitable content on priorities such as child sexual exploitation across all schools at the same time.
The logo entries were judged by local MP Victoria Prentis, Councillor Kieron Mallon and Superintendent Mark Johns at Banbury police station and after much deliberation a winner and two runners up were selected.
Superintendent Mark Johns visited the competition winner, Ysabella Mistula a pupil at Blessed George Napier Catholic School and Sixth Form, to present her with an award.
Congratulations to all who entered the competition.
Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, Victoria Prentis, has welcomed today the Secretary of State’s decision to refer the permanent downgrade of Banbury’s maternity unit to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).
On 10 August 2017, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) resolved to make permanent the temporary suspension of consultant-led maternity at the Horton General Hospital. As a result, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC), chaired by Cllr Arash Fatemian, referred the matter to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
Following on from the outcome of the recent Judicial Review hearing, which found in favour of the CCG, Victoria pressed upon the Department of Health the importance of moving forward, given widespread uncertainty about the future of the unit.
Today, the Secretary of State wrote to Victoria to let her know that he would be passing the matter onto the IRP to undertake an initial assessment before deciding whether it conducts a full review. In his referral, he drew upon the opposition of local councils and their responsibility to scrutinise decisions.
Victoria commented: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to pass the decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel for consideration. It is with regret that we find ourselves in a similar position to 2008, when the IRP were last asked to look at maternity provision at the Horton General Hospital. The IRP is the independent expert on NHS service change; it takes into account all available evidence in order to advise the Secretary of State on contested proposals. I have no doubt that they will look at this matter properly, and am hopeful that they will agree to undertake a full investigation.”
Cllr Kieron Mallon, a longstanding Banbury Councillor and campaigner for the Horton also commented: “For those of us who were involved in 2008 we think it is right and proper for the Secretary of State to refer this on. We are all hopeful that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel will investigate this fully as they did the previous referral.”
2017 has been marked by its unpredictability. Navigating the uncharted waters of Brexit has dominated national headlines. At Westminster, the final few weeks of the year were spent analysing the EU Withdrawal Bill line-by-line. With 405 amendments and 85 new clauses, it meant a lot of late nights but was an extremely thorough process. I spent as much time as possible in the Chamber, listening to colleagues make often impassioned contributions. My own approach was to try to improve the Bill, particularly as I represent a constituency which voted narrowly to leave. We must respect the result and seek to secure a deal that guarantees a deep and special partnership with the EU.
While Brexit may have taken centre stage nationally, our fight to keep acute services at the Horton General Hospital has, quite rightly, been our main focus locally. We remain unhappy about the decision to remove obstetric services at the hospital but the sheer grit and determination of campaigners has been extraordinary. The judicial review may not have been successful, but Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgment only served to reinforce my profound discomfort about the way in which the Clinical Commissioning Group ran the Phase One consultation. The Secretary of State can be in no doubt about how I feel. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel must have the opportunity to conduct an investigation into the downgrade of maternity services.
A fully functioning hospital is more important than ever as we build houses at a rate three times the national average. I am not blind to the challenges of such unprecedented growth. My new Residents’ Roadshow has made it very clear that, from potholes to post boxes, a joined up approach between local authorities and developers is essential as we continue to grow. Ensuring both old and new residents feel part of the same community is paramount to the success of our new housing estates. When we work together, we really can achieve results. Nowhere is that more obvious than the Great British Spring Clean, Singing for Syrians and Refill – three campaigns I have been closely involved with in 2017.
I am hopeful that these initiatives will grow from strength to strength in the coming year. I accept that 2018 will not be easy as we continue to negotiate our departure from the EU. While I may have to spend the majority of my week at Westminster, my focus will remain on working hard for all those who live in North Oxfordshire. I may not have the solution to every problem but I could not be more committed to ensuring that all my constituents have a prosperous and peaceful New Year.
Victoria Prentis MP
1 January 2018
On Tuesday 12 December, Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Layla Moran sang in the choir of the 2017 flagship “Singing for Syrians” concert. Over 600 people attended the event at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, which was organised by neighbouring MP, Victoria Prentis, and raised money for the Hands Up Foundation who support a number of projects to help the most vulnerable who remain in Syria.
Alongside the choir, which was made up of fourteen Members of Parliament, a number of celebrities read at the concert, including Samuel West, Julie Christie and Martin Jarvis. Alexander Armstrong performed “Winter Wonderland”. The event raised over £32,000 through sponsorship, the retiring collection and ticket donations.
Victoria Prentis MP said: “I was delighted to recruit Layla to the MP choir. Singing together is a simple yet effective way to raise money for those most in need in Syria. It is really important to me that the choir is cross-party – it shows that we can all work together to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people. They all sang beautifully and showed that the plight of the Syrian people has not been forgotten.”
Layla Moran MP added: “It was a privilege to sing in the choir at such a magical event. In my youth I went to Damascus when my family lived in Jordan. My heart breaks for the people whose lives have been affected by the conflict, and so when Victoria told me about this event I jumped at the chance to do my little bit. I’d like to thank all those in Oxfordshire who held similar events, the Hands Up Foundation for the amazing work they do, and Victoria for putting the event together. I hope to participate again next year!”
On Saturday 9 December, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, kicked off Christmas festivities in Heyford Park, opening the community’s new Youth Centre.
Heyford Park Youth Group (now a registered charity) was established in April 2017 by local residents, including Tom Beckett and Dave Beesley. It was felt that the area needed more activities for young people, particularly while it undergoes significant redevelopment. Starting out from a room in the Community Centre, it now occupies a building provided by developers Dorchester Living. The Group will eventually move into its own permanent, purpose-built facility. Activities are currently aimed at 13-18 year olds, but it is hoped that those as young as ten will soon be catered for.
Residents have come together to raise money, donate items and help the group renovate the building. In addition, Upper Heyford Parish Council has provided funds to refurbish the site and run it for the first year, with additional support available if required in the future.
After the opening, Victoria said: “It was an honour to be invited to open the new youth centre in Heyford Park. With a growing community, it is important that all age groups are provided with the necessary facilities. It’s lovely to see the community spirit that has turned this vision into a reality.”
Tom Beckett, a founder of the Youth Group and resident commented: “Dave Beesley and I are very proud of this project, not just because we are providing a new youth facility, but because the whole community has contributed in some way to get us from our initial vision to a fully funded and furnished youth facility.”