Last week, I visited a fabulous charity that operates out of the Wesley Chapel in Camborne. Ignite You uses music and dance to support people with special needs or disabilities in West Cornwall. It aims to use dance to keep people active, stimulate the mind and help people find new friends, get out of the home, and develop confidence.
Last Friday they were giving a Christmas performance, and they were clearly passionate about the project they had joined. You could tell that members had all become really close friends as they worked together on the choreography of their routines. There were even performances using Makaton sign language for those with hearing impairments. Ignite has recently been awarded some lottery funding to help support its excellent work. Last Friday I met Becci, one of the founders and many of the other volunteers who made this wonderful project possible.
It is a reminder that, despite sometimes bleak news nationally and internationally, the human spirit can always be found alive and well in local areas and in our local communities in Cornwall. Ignite is not the only such project in our area. The TR14ers is another fabulous dance charity aimed at supporting young people in our area. There is something about music and dance that can be incredibly uplifting. It's also a reminder that we should value subjects like music and the arts in our schools more than we tend to. I was never particularly good at music myself while at school, but for many young people, this is their vocation and what they are passionate about and we need to make sure that it is a valued part of the curriculum. In recent years, I think there has been a bit too much emphasis on academic knowledge and maths, but the arts and languages have a really important role to play in cognitive development that is all too often overlooked. Teachers in those areas can sometimes feel undervalued and that's wrong. We should help young people to find a vocation that they are passionate about and then support them all the way.
In recent weeks I have met many of the primary schools in our area to discuss with them some of the challenges they are facing. The growth of digital technology with iPhones and iPads in the home has contributed to a long-running corresponding rise in children arriving at school aged five with speech and language difficulties. All of our primary schools are wrestling with the impacts of this growing challenge and are trying a range of approaches to try to help children catch up. Their efforts are to be commended and it's a tribute to the creative thinking of our schools that they are all working on this, but the real answer is to address these issues far earlier in a child's life. We need to do more to help parents understand the importance of talking to their babies, even when they don't respond. Traditionally prams had babies facing their mother or parent but now it's much more likely they will be in a pushchair, not connecting with their parent and their parents might well be on their phones. One of the less commented features of the government’s latest reshuffle was the appointment of Andrea Leadsom to work on early years health. She has been a passionate advocate for the power of supporting good parenting in the early years and I hope we will see some creative thinking coming out of government too.