LAST WEEK we launched the new Cooperative Learning Partnership to an audience of more than 100 head teachers, principals and business leaders.
The aim of this initiative is simple: to have a collective responsibility between all of us for self-improvement and lifelong learning from the cradle to the grave.
At one time that would have been the responsibility of Oldham Council, but the world is moving on at a rate of knots and our ambition to ‘fix Oldham’ means we need everyone to step up and say ‘it’s my job’.
Enscribed on the foot of the statue of Failsworth born Lancashire dialect poet Ben Brierley in Queens Park, it says: “If we wanted to climb we had first to build our own ladders”.
Well, that’s exactly what we intend to do.
For once here through the Co-operative Learning Partnership we can have a true partnership of equals where everyone involved in learning, education and employment will come together to ensure that – regardless of institution or organisation – Oldham residents are supported as they climb each rung of the ladder.
For too long the system has, to be honest, promoted insular behaviour.
We judge people on attainment and exams but there is not enough recognition for where people actually end up in life.
Each organisation will look at its own ‘follow on’ rates, but when people leave them it then becomes “‘someone else’s” responsibility.
If, say 80 per cent of students leave school to go into further education, training or employment that’s good news – but then what next? What if just 70 to 80 per cent succeed from that original 80 per cent?
I think that’s partly why we have so many young people unemployed because as they pass through the system those left behind end up with nowhere else to go.
I could very easily have been one of those young people.
Careers advice in my school amounted to little more than a threat that if we didn’t pass our exams we would be destined to ‘Pandora Pickles’: the location pickle packing factory. Hardly inspiring stuff!
That is simplistic and clearly we need to ensure job and training opportunities are made available – and that we enable individuals, parents and communities to make a conscious choice about their own futures.
And it is wider than education too.
The value of hard work, being trustworthy and taking responsibility for yourself is also vital to creating a solid employment base. Coupled with higher skills the town’s offer to potential employers could be fantastic.
That’s why the link to the Oldham Business Leadership Group “Enterprise Trust” is so important here.
Already they are establishing Enterprise Hubs in schools and youth centres as well as leading the Primary Engineers programme and bringing together more than £1.2m in funds to help establish new business ventures in Oldham.
When you put this together with the fantastic Junior University, which aims to spark interest in the sciences, you can see how – by joining all those interests – we’re beginning to present more and more opportunities to young people in Oldham.
Mark my words. There’s absolutely no reason why the next world-changing invention or innovation could not come from Oldham.
It’s time to aim for the stars!
Thanks for listening,