'Your background should not limit your dreams'

Education Secretary Damian Hinds writes for The Gazette:
Education Secretary Damian HindsEducation Secretary Damian Hinds
Education Secretary Damian Hinds

As Education Secretary, I want all young people in Blackpool to have great choices when they turn 16 and the chance to play their part in a modern, high-tech economy.

At the moment, there are still too many children not receiving the education and support they deserve, which is limiting their life chances.

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Only 66 per cent of Blackpool pupils attend a school rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared to the average of 87 per cent of pupils in England as a whole.

That’s why Blackpool was chosen as an Opportunity Area; a local partnership of schools, colleges and businesses who are working together to make sure no child in Blackpool is left behind.

Yesterday I met representatives from the Partnership Board to discuss the challenges and opportunities they are facing. And I spoke to members of Blackpool’s Youth Council.

I also met Academy Trust leaders; we’ve seen how schools such as St Cuthbert’s Catholic Academy can improve after becoming an academy - achieving much better results for their pupils.

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Blackpool has a proud history and I know business and education leaders are determined to challenge expectations about Blackpool, and raise the aspirations of children and young people.

We also recognise that there is already much to celebrate and build upon in Blackpool.

Yesterday I also visited Blackpool and The Fylde College, which has been the highest performing large Further Education college in England for student success for three consecutive years.

They specialise in teaching young people practical, technical skills in fields including aerospace, nautical engineering, advanced IT and software development.

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Students have the opportunity to learn from experts at the new Lancashire Energy HQ campus and the Fleetwood Nautical Campus.

I want more young people to have the opportunities that these students do. It’s in their interests and it’s in Blackpool’s interest to create a more skilled workforce for the local economy.

Increasingly businesses need to be able hire skilled workers who can adapt to, and take advantage of, new technologies from AI to robotics to 3D printing to self-driving vehicles.

That’s why this government is investing in the premium subjects of the future, like maths and science and coding and making sure there are more choices for our children when they turn 16.

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This will include the traditional academic route of doing ‘A’ Levels and going to university but we are also investing in high quality apprenticeships so young people can learn and earn, whether they become a plumber, an aerospace engineer or an accountant.

For young people who want to specialise in technical skills when they turn 16, we will soon be introducing new ‘T’ Levels, a practical alternative to ‘A’ Levels, which will be offered at colleges like Blackpool and The Fylde.

Someone’s background doesn’t dictate their talents and it shouldn’t limit their dreams.

I’m determined to work with Blackpool’s educators and employers to offer all young people here the chance to make the most of their talents and go as far as they can.