September marks the start of a new academic year, and after the disruptions last year due to Covid 19 I’m pleased that all children will be able to get back in the classroom again.
Whilst the effect on our daily lives through the lockdown has been difficult for all of us, I know it has been particularly difficult for our children. Youngsters benefit from the familiarity of seeing the same teacher and their classmates regularly, so I understand what a struggle the past few months will have been for them. I want to take this opportunity to thank teachers for all their efforts in keeping children educated during lockdown, whether that was delivering online learning, posting out work to children, or keeping classroom lessons ongoing for the children of key workers.
I also want to take this opportunity to say a big well done to pupils, particularly those who sat their GCSEs this year and had their exams cancelled. They will have faced a period of uncertainty, but every child should feel proud of the work they have put in, and for the perseverance and resilience they have shown.
There are a range of options available for children finishing school at 16, whether that be continuing full-time study, or combining work and study, through traineeships, supported internships or apprenticeships. The Chancellor’s Summer Statement announced a new bonus for to hire apprentices over six months, with a payment of £2,000 per apprentice and a new payment of £1,500 for each apprentice over 25. This route into work can be a great opportunity for many youngsters and I am pleased that we have many local businesses in Halesowen & Rowley Regis who invest in these schemes to develop a new generation of talent.
I also welcome the introduction of T levels this month, which will follow GCSEs and make the equivalent of three A levels. These offer students a mixture of classroom-based learning as well as ‘on the job’ experience’ in an industry placement, and subjects on offer include accounting, catering, digital design, engineering and onsite construction, amongst many other subjects. They are a great example of employers and training providers working together to ensure that students have the skills they need, and are ready to enter the jobs market when their training is complete.
Finally, I am also aware that it has also been a worrying time for those in education, and I welcome the decision to award students their teacher assessed grades which I believe is in their best interests. I send my very best wishes to all those who are heading off to university this month to begin higher education, or who are beginning full-time employment, and wish them every success in their career ahead.
This article first appeared in the Halesowen & Dudley News on 3rd September 2020.