Time to look forwards and back our young people

As we recover from the virus, it’s time to think more about the future. Nowhere is that more important than in the lives and opportunities of our young people. Nursery, school and university education has been severely disrupted – so getting things back on track as soon as possible is vital.
 
It’s not just about reopening schools and universities, it’s also about building a greater sense of aspiration in our young people. If we want to build a land of opportunity in the years to come, building an aspiration nation will be at the cornerstone.
 
This matters here in Dover & Deal, because educational attainment in our area is not a strong as in other places. In 2017, only 59% of our secondary school pupils got five or more GCSE grade Cs compared to 64% for Kent as a whole. Only two secondary schools in our area did better than the national average in A Level results – Dover Girls Grammar and Sir Roger Manwood’s. Most worrying of all is that our district has the fifth highest number in Kent of people who leave education and are not in education, employment or training – higher than the Kent average. There has been a modest improvement across recent years – but we need to do better, faster.
 
We need to back our young people to believe in better – and to do better. This is a key reason why I have supported schools getting back to normal as quickly as possible. It needs to be safe yes – but it needs to happen. It’s also why I believe that there should be more skills training and education in our area.
 
Kent County Council have decided to create a satellite special school on the old Walmer Science College site in Deal for Profound, Severe and Complex needs. Yet the site is large enough that it could house further or higher skills focussed education as well as a grammar stream there, particularly as KCC had itself forecasted an extra 1,165 more secondary school pupils by 2026.
 
There is a belief in some quarters that deprived communities do less well and poorer educational attainment is just the way things are. Having grown up in a council house, gone to an East Kent grammar school and succeeded in my professional career, I completely disagree. Life may be what you make of it. Yet it is a lot easier for people to get on and do well if they are supported by ladders throughout their lives.
 
People can only seize opportunity when they have opportunity. That is why I feel so strongly that we need to back our young people to do better with greater access to education and skills training to boost their life chances. For me this must be at the heart of our post pandemic national mission and our long term economic recovery plan.

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