As promised in my column last week, I took the Ice Bucket Challenge in Parliament on Tuesday, to raise money and awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Having been nominated by Chippenham’s member of the UK Youth Parliament, Kieran Mulvaney, I took the challenge using water from the fountain beneath Big Ben, topped up with plenty of ice.
If you’d like to see me being drenched, go to www.just giving.com/Duncan-ICED55, where you can watch the video and donate. Please give generously, online or by texting ICED95 £5 to 70070, to help tackle MND.
Just like Parliament, the schools are back this week, and almost all schools are offering free school meals for all infants, as announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this time last year.
Pupils in areas where the scheme was piloted made two months’ more progress than their peers elsewhere, were better behaved and were more likely to eat vegetables and less likely to eat crisps.
I’m glad that more than 15,000 children here in Wiltshire will now get those benefits too. Delivering the policy has not always been straightforward.
It has been an additional project for primary school head teachers to take on, but many have embraced it, knowing that there is good evidence that it will help their pupils learn.
Very early on in this initiative, schools came to me saying that they would need capital investment to improve their kitchens and dining areas, and I took their concerns to ministers in the House of Commons.
Wiltshire Council has worked closely with schools across the country to allocate the funding that was subsequently announced by Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws to the schools that needed it.
The policy has not been without its critics either, notably former advisors of Michael Gove. But he’s no longer in the Department for Education, and the policy to ensure that all five to seven- year-olds have a healthy meal to sustain them into the afternoon of the school day has endured.
I’m looking forward to visiting primary schools in Chippenham and Bradford on Avon myself this week to see how these lunches are received by the children and identify any remaining implementation issues that need to be resolved.
After a constituency surgery today at Melksham Town Hall my next will be at my office in Avonbridge House, Chippenham, on Thursday, September 11, from 9.30 to 11am.