Gillian's Column of the Week
Chichester, Sussex - For the Chichester Observer, Monday 22 January, 2024
Down's syndrome recognised in the school census for the first time


As both your Member of Parliament and the Secretary of State for Education I am driven every day to try to improve things for people in everything I do.

There are occasions however where my work also means a great deal to me personally.

My nephew has Down’s syndrome and I’ve seen how complex and stressful navigating the special educational needs system can be for families. That’s why working to improve support for those with special educational needs has been a personal quest for me, and one I’ve worked on for many years in government. In 2022, as Mental Health Minister, I was proud to support Dr Liam Fox MP with the Down's Syndrome Act which aimed to improve access to services and life outcomes for people with Down’s syndrome.

Now I’m delighted we’re building on this at the Department for Education by recognising Down’s syndrome in the school census for the first time.

This is not about providing a seat in the classroom, it’s about creating an environment where every child across the country, regardless of their abilities, can thrive. It’s only by properly understanding the presence of students with Down's syndrome that we can guide future policy making, helping to achieve a truly inclusive experience for all.

For too long, children with Down’s Syndrome have been held back in education. I hope that amongst other support we’re offering, this will make a real difference in the years to come in enabling people with Down’s syndrome to live full and independent lives.

Gillian with her nephew Joseph.
Back in the constituency on Friday it was great to visit another of the many thriving small business that help make our patch of West Sussex such an exciting place to be. The award-winning Gelato Gusto moved its operations to Chichester last year, with founder-owner Jon looking to expand his wholesale business.

Jon now supplies many businesses including Goodwood and Soho House and employs a small team locally in the production kitchen making a wide array of flavours from pistachio to cherries and cream. He is also looking to take on a new apprentice to help the business grow – the quickest way to my heart, aside from ice cream! championing local success stories, holding agencies, service providers and local and national government to account on your behalf, and meeting even more of you out and about across the constituency.