I just love visiting local schools, or academies as they are now known, and seeing the tremendous work that goes on there. I visited Jesmond Gardens last Friday and the stark difference between that environment and the old Jesmond School was unbelievable. It certainly was a world away from what older students recall as ‘Jessie Jail’ and provided a safe welcoming environment for children from 2 years upwards. In fact they are so successful, not only have they won a national award for Parent and Community Inclusion but they are also expanding with a new extension to increase the number of 2 year old intake; proudly supporting local industry by sourcing local builders for the project.

Congratulations also to Catcote Academy on winning the British Council’s prestigious International School Award for its exceptional work in the field of International Education. Catcote Academy is an exceptional education facility and this award is a real credit to the students and teaching staff. Everybody in town knows about the ‘Catcote Metro’ Shop in the Middleton Grange shopping centre, which is full of wonderful Fair Trade items, but people might not quite realise its significance. It is an amazing showcase representing the hard work of the Academy to foster the value of experiencing other cultures, learning from them and fostering new international opportunities in the world of education and work.

As I said to the kids during assembly at Jesmond Gardens ‘You are the most important people here because you are our future’ and I meant it. Amid all the hustle and bustle of Brexit we must never forget that we must get things right; not just for our generation but for future generations to come. We must also never forget that while we continue to bang on about Brexit our schools in Hartlepool remain seriously underfunded.

So too is 16 plus education. On Monday I was so pleased to be able to champion the cause of our wonderful post 16 providers; the FE College, the Sixth Form College and English Martyrs Sixth Form, in a Westminster Hall debate when I said: ‘ Some of their cuts since 2010 have gone up to 62% (for Adult Education) and we need to urgently address funding in order to avoid the irreparable damage that this might do to our colleges’.

As Mark Hughes, the Head of Hartlepool Sixth Form College says: ‘Further Education has suffered year on year cuts since 2010 with funding for 16 to 18 year olds seeing an 8% drop in real terms. It cannot make sense for students that funding drops off so starkly from the age of 16 as well as for Adult Education’. I agree with him and Amanda Spielman, HM Inspector, in recommending that the Government should use the upcoming spending review to increase the base rate for 16 to 18 funding at the very least.

Our schools and colleges do a brilliant job and produce fantastic outcomes but the serious need of investment by the Government is clearly obvious.

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