It is testament to the tireless work and preparation of teachers and parents that so many schoolchildren here in Birmingham were able to return to the classroom this week.
However, there are still a number of outstanding issues of concern from parents, education professionals and the Labour Party that the government needs to get a grip of.
The test now for the government is to ensure that pupils continue to receive a full education throughout the year, and catch up on the learning they have lost during lockdown.
The impact that time away from the classroom has had on our children is already starting to show. For instance, this week we learnt that the learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has widened by 46 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
We know that inequalities become more entrenched when schools are closed, and that those from disadvantaged backgrounds lose out the most.
That's why, after a summer of chaos, incompetence and confusion from the government, they must prioritise keeping schools safely open to guarantee pupils receive the education they deserve and ensure that no schoolchild is left behind.
Following a spate of burglaries and other criminal activity in North Edgbaston, I met with Sergeant Short to relay residents' concerns and to urge for extra resources to be deployed in the area.
The local police teams in Birmingham Edgbaston have also agreed to take part in a monthly public meeting which will provide an opportunity for residents to raise any issues and share experiences, as well as to hear from local police teams about their work in the area.
If you would like to join the public meetings with the police, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know once we have dates and other details confirmed.
New 'drop and collect' testing service for Birmingham residents
Birmingham City Council has launched a new, free ‘drop and collect’ Covid-19 testing service for residents in Birmingham.
Staff from across the council, NHS and wider public sector have volunteered to take part. They will visit households across the city to offer test kits on the doorstep, even for those without symptoms, to support more testing.
Once dropped off, a volunteer will come back and pick up the completed kit within the hour.
Anyone requiring an immediate test should still request a test online or by ringing 119.
Could your training venue host international stars during the Birmingham Commonwealth Games?
The West Midlands is home to some of the world's best sports facilities.
Hosting international athletes is a chance for venues to raise their profile, spread the economic benefits of the Games across the region, and inspire communities through their involvement with Birmingham 2022.
Interested local sports clubs and facilities in Birmingham Edgbaston can find out more, as well as how to apply, by clicking the button below.
This week saw the Department for International Development (DfID) abolished, with development responsibilities folded into the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
However, the government has offered little in the way of reassurance that FCDO will continue the world leading work of DfID or even that poverty reduction will be a priority.
The British people are rightly proud of the impact UK aid and development has had in supporting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. But under this government, the future of the UK’s commitment to lead on international development is uncertain.
Boris Johnson's completely unnecessary large-scale Whitehall restructure will see the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, be handed control of the UK's aid budget. This is despite countless independent reviews consistently ranking DfID as more effective, transparent and providing better value for money than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
DfID focuses its spend on the poorest countries in the world, whereas the majority of UK aid spent by other government departments, like FCO, goes to middle income countries, like China. More on this below.
Even the Taxpayers' Alliance found that “when the aid budget is spent by departments other than DfID, it is often spent in ways that are neither contributing to poverty reduction or the national interest”.
Boris Johnson sent millions in aid to China
It emerged this week that Boris Johnson gave tens of millions of pounds of UK taxpayers' money to China in the form of UK aid while he was Foreign Secretary.
UK aid must be used to tackle poverty but it’s clear time and time again that this government can’t be trusted with it.
DfID has been a world leader in providing life-changing and life-saving support to millions of people in the world’s poorest countries, but now the Prime Minister wants more aid to be spent by departments routinely criticised for their lack of transparency and accountability, and ones which have spent almost one hundred million pounds of UK aid in China between 2014 and 2018.
There were worrying reports this week that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, wants to raid the UK aid budget to fund cyber weapons and AI drones.
This irresponsible retrograde step would signal a retreat from the world stage, harm the world's poorest and, at a stroke, irrevocably reverse our hard-won soft power and reputation as a global leader on international development built up since DfID's inception.
In other news, I have called on Boris Johnson to launch a full investigation into a potential breach of the ministerial code by Tory peer, Baroness Verma, after it was revealed that she signed deals worth £88 million for her family firm with Uganda’s government.
As I told the Guardian this week, ministers cannot be allowed to abuse their position for personal gain, and if Baroness Verma is found to have broken the code then the Prime Minister must act to reassure the public that he will not tolerate such violations.