MY THOUGHTS always turn to local families at this time each year as so many of them start adjusting their lives for ‘back to school’.
With A-Level and GCSE results revealed over the summer, the focus now shifts to those thousands of school children – all kitted out in their fresh gear – who are about to join new classes and schools across the borough.
I know from personal experience that this can be a very tense time for children, parents, staff and governors alike.
That’s not just about the challenges of dealing with new changes to daily life that are getting underway – or learning new faces and building new relationships.
There’s also the very natural nagging hopes and fears that the correct choices have been made for the long-term prospects of a child and that everything will work out right.
Here in Oldham we all want the very best possible start to life for all our children and last year we recognised that there are many education issues which all parties can work on better together to ensure a brighter future.
So as those shiny new shoes are taking those first steps and those smelly new textbooks are being opened by their first readers this week, it felt like the right time to ask Estelle Morris – who is chair of the Oldham Education and Skills Commission (OESC) – to guest blog for me as the body prepares to unveil its final recommendations in October.
Over to Estelle now to explain more…
For some, it will be a big change – starting school for the first time, moving to secondary school, college or university – and for others it will be returning to a familiar place.
Whatever the situation, education is one of the things that we share in common.
Every parent wants their child to do well, children dream of what they might become, adults want to update their skills, people learn because they want to know and understand more.
Although that personal commitment to learning is at the core of achievement and progress, we also need other people to help us achieve it.
That’s the importance of schools and colleges and those who work in them and why, in so many ways, the future prosperity of Oldham and its residents depends on the quality of what they deliver.
Jim McMahon, the Leader of Oldham Council, asked me to chair a commission to consider how we might improve the education system in the borough – for children and adults and for learners and teachers.
The OESC has been meeting for the last year and will present its report in the next few weeks. Our membership has included school and college leaders as well as teachers, university lecturers, business people and governors.
Oldham has some excellent schools and some outstanding teachers and many young people develop into confident adults with the qualifications they need.
However, if you compare the overall results in the town, particularly in secondary schools, they are not as good as they should be.
Making sure that more schools deliver a high standard of education has been the main focus of the commission.
We need to make it possible for schools to work together so they can learn from each other and so that we can spread the good practice that exists in the town to all our schools.
Investing in the skills of our teachers and making sure we attract and retain the best in the profession will be part of our recommendations.
However, although we all know the importance of teachers they can’t bring about the improvement we need by themselves. We have to harness the energies and skills of others in the community.
Parents are key partners. Not only are those first years before a child starts school so vital for their future education success, the support and encouragement they continue to give can make all the difference.
There are other partnerships that are also important.
The hundreds of residents who volunteer to be governors, local businesses who offer work experience, cultural institutions and sporting facilities that can work with schools to deliver a more exciting curriculum – all make a difference.
Most of all, Oldham has to believe that more of its residents can achieve at a higher level; it has to be ambitious for the town and for all its people.
One of the reasons, I was eager to take on the role of chair of the OESC is that I know that the leadership of the council shares that ambition and is determined that Oldham should have an education system that will help deliver transformation across the borough.
All of us on the commission hope we can play a part in making this happen.
We’re due to deliver our final recommendations next month, but if you want to find out more about the work the OESC has already been doing, then please visit our website by clicking here.
(Baroness Morris of Yardley)
Chair of the Oldham Education and Skills Commission
Thanks for listening,