This week started with the return of schools and colleges, something students and parents across the area have been looking forward to. On Monday I met students with a pent-up passion for learning at Havant and South Downs College, and all-over social media schools are posting the beaming faces of children at their desks.
Although a very happy day, it is worth remembering the enormous amount of work that has gone into reopening. Each school has been running mass testing programmes and maintaining covid-19 measures. I am very proud of our local teachers and staff who have made this return possible.
On Monday we also celebrated International Women’s Day, marking the significant impact women have made, and continue to make across the world, whilst highlighting the challenges still faced by many and the imbalances in society that persist. This year the contribution of women who’ve led the fight against Covid-19 was celebrated. The Prime Minister praised the work of Professor Sarah Gilbert, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, former vaccines taskforce head Kate Bingham, medical regulator boss Dr June Raine, and many more.
Locally too, our response has been largely driven by women. All three medical trusts are headed up by talented women. The Community Trust, which is successfully rolling out the vaccine, is run by Siobhan Melia. Meanwhile, mental health services led by Sam Allen had the highest national uptake of their online services when it launched during lockdown. Finally, Marianne Griffiths runs our local hospital trust, which is rated outstanding by the CQC, has been at the forefront of our Covid-19 response.
These brilliant women are not alone and work with our local authorities, who both have female CEOs in Becky Shaw, at County, and Diane Shepherd at District, and our fire service is run by Chief Fire Officer, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton. Beyond this, local female leaders are doing great work all over the place, in education with Shelagh Legrave and Jane Longmore at Chichester College and University respectively. In tourism, with Danielle Dunfield running The Great Sussex Way, and wider economic development with Julie Kapsalis as Chair of Coast to Capital LEP.
The impact women make to our area is undeniable, and their contribution will be vital as we recover from Covid-19. So, I want to sincerely thank all the women who have taken on the responsibly of leadership. I hope young girls and women across West Sussex and beyond are inspired by these role models and can see with a bit of hard work they can achieve whatever they want to in life!