Fears raised over lives of youngsters

Independent councillor Cath Hill
Independent councillor Cath Hill

A SENIOR councillor has raised major concerns children in Hartlepool are being condemned to “unhappy and unfulfilled” lives.

Independent councillor Cath Hill said it was “totally unacceptable” for more than half of youngsters to be leaving secondary school without an A to C in English and maths.

Coun Hill believed a key factor was the council post of assistant director (performance and achievement), currently held by Dean Jackson, being shared between Hartlepool and Darlington Borough Council, an agreement which saves around £40,000.

Coun Hill requested money be set aside to withdraw from the arrangement with Darlington council and to recruit an extra officer to help raise attainment levels.

Cabinet members proposed to set aside £200,000, but to take the proposal to full council as part of the budget process.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said the attainment levels needed addressing urgently, but said it needed looking at in more detail.

Mr Jackson, whose salary with the council is £70,254, was appointed last May and a key part of his role is to work with all Hartlepool schools to continue driving up attainment levels.

Mayor Drummond said the problems date back before Mr Jackson’s appointment.

Coun Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services, said: “We are in a very unfortunate and unhappy situation were more than half of the children who start secondary school with level four or level five leave without achieving A to C in English or maths.

“Without A to C in English or maths there is very little you can do and we need to re-look at decisions and one of them was the sharing of the assistant director with responsibilty for attainment with Darlington.

“We can’t afford to do that.”

Coun Hill, who said there was no time to delay, added: “Without casting aspersions on anybody, I think we have to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes because we can’t carry on failing our children.

“That is totally unacceptable as we are condemning them to unhappy and unfulfilled lives.”

Mayor Drummond said: “There is an issue about attainment that needs addressing as a matter of urgency, but none of us know what the solution is until it has been looked at in great detail.

“We need to scratch below the surface and look at why.”

He added the schools had a big part to play and said they should also consider putting some money aside.

Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, added: “There is a fundamental problem, but we need to analyse that before we put any money into it.”

He added that Mr Jackson was currently working on a business case and said the idea of putting a reserve aside and bringing a further report was the right way to go.

It was also agreed that the children’s scrutiny forum and Coun Hill, as portfolio holder, would get the ball rolling in terms of examining how the situation can be improved.

Labour group leader and chairman of children’s scrutiny forum, Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “I was alarmed how some of our children are being let down and not really afforded the best chance when they leave school.”