Tools with a Mission
UK Education for Change
any occasions where I’ll be critical of the way UK aid is spent and where it’s sent. However, UK Education for Change which I saw in Bangladesh last month are doing some great work.
Large numbers of Bangladeshi girls are forced into child labour and are denied basic education. UK Education for Change works to change this. Quite a touching moment communicating with some of the girls and their parents via an interpreter about how their lives have been changed for the better.
Bangladesh is a fast developing country with increasing influence and of course a Commonwealth country with which we have strong ties.
There is a need for an aid budget but it needs to work in accordance with British interests and should also ideally be linked to increasing trade and Investment. Clearly morally it’s important the aid goes to where’s its really needed. Not to countries that don’t need it and which aren’t allies with which we have close links!
New Skills Centre
Visited the New Skill Centre today to see their SEN school and meet with headteacher Mark Winston. I visited their centre for adults the other week, and it was great to hear about all the work they do for young people as well at their school. When I visited, they were having a “Paws for Thought” day to raise money for the Blue Cross charity.
The centre only opened in September 2019, and their building, a former church, originally had no classrooms. They’re off to a great start. Since opening, they’ve grown enormously and have already got a good all round Ofsted rating.
The NSC supports students aged 11-19 with complex needs like autism, some of whom have been out of school for many years. They help many students who have suffered trauma causing social issues, not just those with SEND. Post-16 students do placements and often help teach younger students.
NSC has classes of about 3-4 students in a nurturing environment, offering a full GCSE curriculum. Within a short space of time, their students make progress in interpersonal skills and confidence. 95% of students’ places are commissioned by local authority, and they’re very strict on having only students suitable to the environment. They’re independent but subscribe to the funding structure for SEN pupils, giving them more freedom to manage the school and funding.
During my visit, I met James, a post-16 student who has progressed hugely and is now going for a work placement. After two years here, he’s off to Suffolk New College to study business. It was great to learn about how much progress he’s made and hear about his future plans.
I also got to see the design and technology workshops. They have a 3-D printer and CAD software, and I saw some of the impressive projects the students have worked on.
The school also works closely with parents, gives confidence and breaks down barriers. I met Emma Mirams, the assistant head who is also in charge of mental health and pastoral care, and learned about the kind of extra support they offer.
The school is off to a great start, and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow and support more young people.
Children’s Minister visit to Bobby Robson School
Was really pleased to have the Children’s Minister Claire Coutinho at the Sir Bobby Robson school this afternoon. She covers special educational needs as part of her role.
I’ve taken a keen interest in the school since it first opened only a few years so. Adam the head teacher and his team are doing a terrific job. Both myself and the Minister really enjoyed meeting so many of the pupils at the school and understanding more about their experiences.
In total there are now 66 at Sir Bobby. Many previous to being at Sir Bobby didn’t get the support they needed. Now they’re getting it and the progress many of them are making is uplifting.
Over the past few years the Government have increased the money put into special educational needs but the way Suffolk SEND is funded isn’t right. The amount of funding per pupil is lower than many comparable counties and this needs to change. I made this point to the Minister today and will be bringing it up in Parliament again next week.
We have another special school on the way on Woodbridge Road but even with that there is still not enough places at schools such as Sir Bobby. For every place at the school there is significant interest.
Suffolk Devolution deal
The Suffolk Devolution deal was officially agreed with Government Minister Lee Rowley this afternoon. This involves a significant amount of new funding for Suffolk and powers. Particularly over skills and things like adult education. It will include a £480 million investment fund over 30 years.
This does represent in my view an opportunity for Suffolk and Ipswich. It must be taken.
In principle I’ve always believed in decisions being taken as closely as possible to the people affected by those decisions.
Suffolk will only ever achieve its true potential if Ipswich achieves its true potential. The new devolution settlement for Suffolk must involve a strong focus on Ipswich. I will work with whoever I need to in order to try and ensure that.
I’m hoping this new model will help us get more investment into key infrastructure projects. Whether road or rail. There is much to be done.
Part of this will involve a new democratically elected leader of Suffolk County Council.
Visit to Ipswich Academy
Great to visit Ipswich Academy yesterday and speak with headteacher Abbie Thorrington about how the school has been progressing over the last few months.
As I’ve said before, Ipswich Academy is a standout success making a big difference in the lives of students here in Ipswich. I was glad to be able to hear about how we can support them in developing their vision for opening up educational opportunities to those who need them most.