Suffolk Chamber of Commerce
Northgate Sports Centre
Great meeting today with members of Ipswich Jaffa, Orwell Panthers, Ipswich Harriers, and Ipswich athletics club at Northgate Sports Centre, following the news that Suffolk County Council has secured an operator to keep it open for at least the next few years. The next step is to make sure its future is secured long-term, and I’ll be working hard to help make sure that happens.
I wrote to the County Council last week urging them to find a way to keep it open after many of my constituents contacted me worried about the uncertainty around its future. Northgate is used massive numbers of people, including local sports clubs like the Ipswich Harriers, Orwell Panthers, and Ipswich Jaffa running club, as well as judo, bowls clubs, and many others.
It’s owned by the County Council, but Ipswich Borough Council has run the centre for the last 25 years. They decided not to renew their agreement this year, and poor communication from the Council created a lot of uncertainty about its future. Fortunately, I was pleased to see the County Council step in alongside Vivify, which has extensive experience operating over 500 sports facilities across the country, to operate the centre from April for at least the next two years.
There’s still uncertainty about what comes after that, though, and I’ll be working closely with the Council and local clubs to try to find a more long-term solution and to find funding for necessary upgrades, especially for the running track. I’m really keen to make sure Northgate remains open for my constituents for many years to come.
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!
Broomhill Lido project
Pleased about this response from the National Lottery Heritage Fund about Broomhill Lido. The £3.4 million they committed to the Broomhill Lido project is still in place despite the Levelling Up Fund setback.
Meetings will be taking place soon regarding other funding avenues to bridge the shortfall. I will continue to provide updates. We’re not giving up.
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.