Robert's Weekly Column - 16th August 2018

Here in Swindon, we have a higher than average number of digital businesses, so it is essential that we train, nurture and supply a pipeline of talent that can help this important part of the local economy to prosper. This week, Education Secretary, Nick Gibb, will set out plans to put technology at the heart of education, which is especially welcome news for Swindon as one of 16 ‘tech towns’.

By forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector, we can harness the power of technology to the benefit of students, teachers and the many growing local digital businesses.

Education technology will support teacher training and development, improve access and inclusion for children with different backgrounds and abilities and give people a second chance to learn new skills, by breaking down the walls of the traditional classroom.

Teacher workload is one of the biggest challenges in education and the Government have already taken action to tackle this by publishing a workload reduction toolkit and committing to a simpler accountability system for schools. Technology has the potential to build on this by streamlining administration processes and reducing the burden of non-teaching tasks – saving teachers time and freeing them up to teach.

I am proud that here in Swindon we are already leading the way in this area with the launch of the new Innovation Hub at UTC Swindon at the end of June. The facility is equipped with a range of the latest computing technology and will be used to promote the use of technology and development of digital skills. Important new technology facilities and programmes, such as the Cyber Security Award that UTC Swindon is offering in September, are so important to local employers.

It is great to see local engineering and technology partners investing in the education system and I will continue to encourage and support initiatives like this in all of our local schools, which will develop the skills students need to join the workforce and that companies need to grow their business.

Many of us, me included, carry an organ donor card in our wallet or have one in a safe place at home. Voluntary organ donation saves the lives of thousands of people every year, but there are over 5,000 people on the transplant register in the UK and an average of three people a day die because they don't get the help they need. I am pleased that the Conservative Government has outlined plans to implement a new system of consent for organ and tissue donation in England.

The new system will shift the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation, those who do not wish to donate their organs will still be able to record their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, either via NHS Blood and Transplant’s website or by calling their helpline. The NHS app, launching at the end of this year, will also make it even easier for people to record their decision.

As part of a drive to help people waiting for a life-saving transplant, the Government believe that these changes could save as many as 700 more lives every year. Under the new system, safeguards have been put in place to protect vulnerable individuals.  Children under 18 and individuals who lack the mental capacity to understand the changes, will be automatically excluded from the system of presumed consent.

Following the 12-week consultation launched in December 2017, which received over 17,000 responses demonstrating the scale of public engagement with the proposal, there will be a 12-month transition period to allow time for discussion with friends and family about organ donation preferences and specialist nurses will always discuss donation with families so an individual’s wishes are respected.

Finally, an estimated 6 million online fraud and cyber-crime offences are committed every year in England and Wales.  I have spoken with several local residents who have fallen victim to these crimes in the past and many have not even been aware they have been targeted until they realise their savings have been stolen.  The need for all of us to be careful and vigilant when sharing our personal details on the internet has never been greater. The National Cyber Security Centre has recently published new guidance to help set up two-factor authentication for personal accounts you use at home to help improve the security of your important accounts.  You can find information on this, as well as other important internet security advice by visiting