Archive for the 'education' Category

Creating opportunities for young people in Brighton & Hove

In many ways, we are extremely fortunate in Brighton & Hove in having one of the most highly educated workforces in the country. This is great news, in particular, for our digital, new media and creative sectors, which have begun to thrive in recent years and attract many university graduates to stay on in the City. However, this success does have an unfortunate side-effect in that it makes it more difficult for non-graduates to enter the workforce, even into relatively low paid jobs.

Therefore, as a Council, it is vitally important that we do everything we can to work with schools, colleges and local businesses to ensure that those young people who choose not to go to university don’t get left behind. I strongly believe that all young people in this City should be able to access the jobs market on an equal footing.

The work of the Brighton & Hove Education Business Partnership (EBP), which is a professional body accredited by the Institute of Education Business Excellence, is a key part of our strategy to provide work-related support links for young people in the City. They have been established for 12 years now and have a fantastic track record working with schools, colleges and businesses to provide opportunities in preparing young people for the world of work.

The EBP also work with some of the City’s more vulnerable young people, such as those with Special Educational Needs or those leaving care. For example, just this week they organised an event at Hillside Special School which offered the pupils training and advice on how to manage their finances and other consumer affairs issues. This is essential for vulnerable young people in the city.

Of course a vital part of helping young people into their chosen career path is through apprenticeships. New research carried out for the Government shows that every £1 spent on providing apprenticeships brings a massive £40 return to the economy. The value is obvious, both for the individual in terms of his or her future prosperity, but also to the wider economy. Here in Brighton & Hove we recently worked with local employers to successfully complete our 100 in 100 campaign – creating 100 apprenticeships in 100 days. But we must maintain this momentum in ensuring that young people are properly prepared to join the workforce. And as a country, it is sad to say that we still lag way behind places like Germany and Finland, where apprenticeships are embedded in the education system.

Therefore, it was very disappointing that our proposals at the recent Budget Council meeting to put the EBP on a sustainable footing, and through the City Employment Skills Initiative, to establish a new local Future Apprenticeships Fund, were voted down. It is certainly a shame to have to bring politics into an issue which should generate cross-party agreement but I believe that the young people of Brighton & Hove have been badly let down. If passed, this would have been a significant investment in our future work force in the city, which in these tough economic times, could have transformed lives.

Tackling child poverty in Brighton & Hove requires radical action

The recent report in the Argus of 17th March on child poverty in Brighton & Hove raises many challenging questions about how we tackle inter-generational dependency in the City. I do genuinely believe that this issue crosses political lines and I’m pleased that our recent decision to protect all the City’s Sure Start Children’s Centres was supported by all parties.

The previous Government had some success in reducing child poverty at the margins which is, of course, welcome. However, as Labour MP – Frank Field – says in his recent report on child poverty “considering the vast sums expended, the overall reduction was modest”. And the number of children in the worst poverty has actually increased.

I think he identifies one of the lessons to be learned from the last 10 years or so – simply throwing money at a problem won’t make it go away. A great example of this is the £47 million that was spent by the previous Labour Government in some of the more deprived parts of Brighton & Hove, as part of its New Deal for Communities programme. The whole purpose of this scheme was to tackle ingrained poverty in areas of high deprivation, but the evidence indicates strongly that it has had little effect. Indeed, our independent research shows that benefit dependency actually increased compared to the rest of the City over the period the money was being spent.

I believe that one of the most important ways of reducing poverty long-term is through sustained employment and, in Brighton & Hove, we need to ensure that the increase in inward investment that has occurred over recent years is maintained. Projects such as the American Express expansion are very encouraging in this regard in getting the message across that Brighton & Hove is open for business.

Another incredibly important factor is ensuring that work always pays. Too many people are left worse off when they take up a job than when they were on benefits. I believe that the proposals which the Government has put forward to tackle this – the Universal Credit – are genuinely radical and will be vitally important if we are to ever break the poverty cycle. For the sake of the City’s children, we must confront this issue head on.

Primary education to return to the Connaught Centre!

Great news today on the schools front – we have managed to reach agreement with City College Brighton & Hove to lease the Connaught Centre for use as a new 3 form entry primary school from next September. In return, we have given City College a lease to develop the City College East site at Wilson Avenue, Whitehawk. So this is a fantastic double-whammy for the City’s children and young people – not only do we have a step-change in the provision of primary places in Hove but it also allows further investment in facilities for the next generation of school leavers in need of jobs training.

The shortage of primary school places in the west of the City was something which we inherited when coming into Administration in 2007 and we have been working very hard to address it. We have already expanded Davigdor Infant, Somerhill Junior, West Blatchington Primary, Goldstone Primary, Westdene Primary and Benfield Junior Schools, but the acquisition of the Connaught takes things onto another level.

The Grade 2 listed Connaught Centre, was originally built for primary education back in 1884 and all parties were determined that it should be kept in community use for educational purposes. I’m delighted we’ve been able to achieve that and I would like to thank Phil Frier at City College for his constructive approach to the negotiations.

Coming on the back of the opening of the new Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and record GCSE results, I’m delighted with the way that education in the City is progressing at the moment.

Academy schools can make a real difference in Brighton & Hove

It was really encouraging to see the report out on Friday from the National Audit Office which concluded that Academy schools have achieved greater rates of academic improvement than their predecessor schools.

In Brighton & Hove, we have just opened a new Academy school at Falmer with Rod Aldridge of the Aldridge Foundation and are extremely hopeful that this will have a similar impact. By their own admission, GCSE results at Falmer this year were disappointing and have been well below average for some time now. We owe it to the children in this part of the City to turn this situation around. The new Academy building is still being constructed and will open fully in September 2011, but phase one is now complete and the Academy officially opened last week. This is a really exciting development and represents upwards of £25 million of investment in a new state-of-the-art educational establishment.

We also remain very hopeful of being able to turn Portslade Community College into an Academy. We should know more after the Government has completed its Comprehensive Spending Review in October but the noises we have been hearing so far are encouraging.

Finally, a word to the Green Party, who remain dogmatically opposed to the Academy and ‘free school’ programmes. Take a look at the evidence of improvement, take a look at the investment that this is bringing into our City. It is shameful that you are actively working and campaigning to try and deny the opportunities that this will bring to some of the most disadvantaged children in our City.

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July 2022