Johnny’s latest press coverage

Plymouth’s children’s services are improving but there’s still work to do

April 2, 20240

An Ofsted report in December 2022 rated Plymouth City Council’s provision as “requires improvement”. I was greatly alarmed by the review which found “serious and widespread failings” which were “leaving children at significant risk of harm”. Five months later in May 2023 the Department for Education issued the council with an improvement notice, MP Johnny Mercer writes.


Speaking to teaching staff and students every week during my school visits, I know that there is so much more that we can be doing to support and protect vulnerable kids.


My position in as the cross-government lead for care leavers since July 2023 has brought me even closer to the challenges which this special group of people face.


We have so many success stories to share in Plymouth about our offer for young kids. We’ve gone from just 45 percent of schools in Plymouth Moor View being rated as good or outstanding in 2010, to 84 percent today.


Outside the classroom, youth groups in Plymouth benefited from a £2.4m government grant last month. If our children’s services can match this record, we will be a huge step closer to making Plymouth the best city in the country to grow up.


There is a litany of issues with Plymouth City Council’s children’s services. The most frequent complaint I hear from headteachers in Plymouth Moor View is the merry-go-round of staff at the council. I believe that it is the single biggest factor that has prevented the council from gripping children’s services since Ofsted warned that it “requires improvement to be good” back in 2018.


In November 2023 it was announced that the Interim Director for Children’s Services David Haley would take up the role on a permanent basis. I met with David at the time to raise concerns shared by teaching staff and am hopeful that his permanent appointment will see better strategic decisions taken at the council level. He has my full support and I look forward to building a close working relationship with him to support our dedicated social workers and help get children’s services in Plymouth back on track.


I have met with several special schools this month that have stressed the need for more school places. We are in a position where some special schools are at double capacity and have been waiting several years for new facilities. This is frankly unacceptable. I have written directly to the Chief Executive of Plymouth City Council to lobby for concrete action to be taken and await her response.


I welcome comments made by Ofsted inspectors that significant improvements have been made under David’s leadership. Following a two-week on-site inspection in January, inspectors noted improvements made to ‘front door’ services and well-made plans to address all their recommendations.


There is still a long way to go. I will continue to keep speaking one-to-one every week with key stakeholders and hold the council to account to ensure that we get the quality of care that Plymouth deserves. It is a difficult space but there is finally an opening to put things right, an opportunity which we cannot miss.


As ever, please get in touch via or 01752 876979. Surgeries can also be booked with me through these channels.

Luke Jones

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