The desire to see your children get on in life is something every parent wants. The wish to see the next generation, whether that is your children or grandchildren, have a better, happier, healthier and more prosperous life than you in the previous generation is a very strong strand of human nature.
The people of Hartlepool also have a strong sense of pride and connection with our town; with a fierce sense of community spirit which wants to see the town prosper.
The two things are linked. In the modern age, more than any other period, there is a clear connection between a good education and how a child and community prosper in the future.
Those areas with relatively low skills amongst the population will decline and experience lower employment, higher poverty and greater ill health.
A young person who gains skills and qualifications will – and this is hardly rocket science – be more likely to be in work, have more money and have a higher and happier standard of living.
In the 21st century, education and skills are the passport to a better future, whether you are a child or young person, or whether you are dealing with towns, cities or countries.
That is why it is so important that Hartlepool recognises the importance of education.
The provision of education in the town and the experience and success of children and young people at school have much to commend, but also challenges and weaknesses that need to be identified and tackled in a determined and co-ordinated way.
This week the Hartlepool Education Commission Report was launched. I was pleased to have been able to attend, along with children and young people, teachers, governors and representatives from the local authority, NHS and business.
Chaired by Professor Steve Higgins from Durham University, the Commission aimed to identify the challenges in the town’s education provision and ensure that every school is seen as good or outstanding and that no child slips through the net and fails to achieve his or her potential.
There are positive aspects of education in Hartlepool. Achievement and school performance are improving rapidly. The percentage of Hartlepool primary schools judged to be good or outstanding is well above the national average. The proportion of 16 year olds engaged in education and training is also above the national average.
However, there are real challenges that need to be addressed.
When a child enters reception class in Hartlepool, the so-called baseline assessment of a child’s basic skills like vocabulary, is significantly worse than the rest of the country which means it is more difficult to catch up.
The transition from primary school to secondary school is challenging, meaning that achievement at secondary school is not what it could be.
For a town whose economic future will have engineering and high value manufacturing at its heart, it particularly disturbs me that participation and achievement in science, technology, engineering and maths is significantly worse than the national average.
The Commission’s Report provides recommendations to improve these weaknesses.
This is really important – the way in which Hartlepool’s destiny will be shaped in the next century. It is shameful that any child is allowed to fail in the education system, or that Hartlepool will not have the chance to succeed in the modern age. To achieve these objectives, priority of education is a must.