Like many of us here in Swindon, I was delighted to wake on Monday morning and discover that The Silent Child film, starring six-year-old Maisie Sly from Swindon, had won an Oscar for Best Short Film.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending a showing of the film at the Arts Centre a few weeks ago. The film does an excellent job of highlighting the many issues that face Maisie and other deaf children who are born to parents with hearing, such as the use of British Sign Language, or BSL.

I would like to offer my congratulations to Maisie, her family, the cast and the production team. I am delighted that this film has put Swindon firmly on the map!

Following the extreme weather last week, big thanks are due to our NHS workers, police, firefighters, armed forces, care workers and everyone else who kept going and worked hard to keep us safe. Thanks too to all of those in the local community who offered support and help to others during the bad weather. There were many examples of this including those checking on elderly or vulnerable neighbours and those with 4X4 vehicles offering to drive hospital workers to and from work. This is a testament to the strong sense of community spirit that exists here in Swindon.

I was very pleased to visit Peatmoor Community Woodland on Sunday. This 6.5 acres of land is looked after and maintained by local residents and it was great to meet them and look at the coppicing work and the monthly activity that makes this little corner of West Swindon a very special, peaceful and tranquil place. I was also delighted to meet Marilyn Trew as she unveiled a colourful illustrated map of the copse, which she had designed.

I am pleased that South Swindon Parish Council have agreed to award a grant to the Old Town Festival. I have been privileged to be part of this event for many years. The dedication from residents and businesses in keeping it as one of the destination events in Swindon does them credit. Let’s hope it continues to thrive after such great foundations have been laid. I would like to say a special thank you to my friend, Josie, who has chaired it brilliantly over the years.

A new date has been arranged for the Old Town Big Clean Up after the event was cancelled at the weekend due to the bad weather. The event will now take place on Sunday, 22nd April with several starting points for the clean-up. Further information can be found on the Facebook page

On Monday morning, I visited apprentices at Nationwide here in Swindon to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2018. I was glad to have the opportunity to talk about how their apprenticeships are working, what their aspirations are and why they chose this path.

Nationwide employed 14 apprentices in 2017 and in 2018, the company aims to take on an additional 30-50 more, offering a variety of qualifications, as well as degree apprenticeships.

Over 11,400 apprenticeships have been started in Swindon since 2010. Apprenticeships give young people the skills they need to succeed in life, in a role they want to progress in. They give employers the opportunity to mould and shape the workforce and deliver skills with real value in the jobs market. I will continue to do all I can to support apprenticeships here in Swindon; they work for young people, employers, the community and more widely, the economy.