Frank Field MP
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Academy is opportunity to address needs of young people

04 July 2009
LAST Friday I was giving out certificates to young people who, while of school age, had hardly ever turned up for class. They were all part of the NEET group - those not in education, employment or training.

As a result of the work of Jill Quayle and her brilliant team at the Tranmere Community Project, 95 per cent of these young people are now either back in education, or in training, or have landed a job.

They were a wonderful group of young people, although I guess that not all of them were like that when they first arrived.

They were brilliantly turned out. They were fully engaged. And, best of all, they cheered and clapped the success of everyone, and not just their own mates.

One of the big questions that stalks me like a big black dog for so much of my waking hours was again on my mind as I handed over the certificates.

What do we get wrong in our schools that we need the brilliance of the Tranmere Community Project and many others like it? Part of the answer is the chaotic lifestyles of many children. These backgrounds make learning very difficult.

Another is that, despite some unbelievably dedicated teachers, schools simply fail.

And there is one major reason why they do so. Governments impose a curriculum on the schools which is totally unsuited to perhaps sixty per cent of our young people.

The national curriculum, and all that goes with it, is a dumb down version of what the best grammar schools offer. No wonder schools have such a near impossible task on their hands.

Yesterday, the black dog was banished.

I was in Birkenhead Park at a press conference with David Hughes. David is a local boy who has made good, big time.

He is the sponsor of the new Academy that will replace two of Birkenhead's schools.

David is very clear that the new Academy will produce an education which is technically based and prepares young people for highly paid skilled jobs.

He is also fanatical about the school being sports-based and being open for business for the local area for sixteen hours a day, 52 weeks of the year.

We will now have our work cut out in getting all the plans in place so the Academy opens next summer. A spanking new school needs to be built.

We need to understand how the local primary schools equip every child with the basic skills they need if they are to flourish in the new Academy.

David will be a wonderful role model for the young people. I hope some of the governors will be his friends, who have similarly created jobs, and understand the skills every young person needs to begin a successful life at work.

The Academy gives us a chance of forming a school around the needs of young people, rather than forcing young people into a given type of school.

That model has failed over the past forty years or more to deliver the best life chances to every young person. 


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