Suffolk: Conference aiming to ‘raise the bar’

CHILDREN across Suffolk need to be better prepared for the technological challenges of the 21st Century.

That’s the message that will be coming from a major conference for business and schools to be held at Trinity Park, in Ipswich, next month.

It will look at preparing youngsters for a world of work dominated by the energy industry – and other hi-tech businesses linked to broadband and information services.

Although the county’s GCSE grades have improved in recent years, Suffolk’s progress is still below the national average and the authority is ranked 121st out of 150 for the number of students achieving five A* to C grades including English and maths.

“Raising the Bar” is aimed at addressing the concerns of employers who feel too many young people are not ready for the world of work when they leave school.

In an invitation to the conference, to be held on June 14, director of children and young people’s services at Suffolk County Council, Simon White, says: “For many years Suffolk children have not done as well in national examinations as children from similar backgrounds elsewhere in England. In recent years our efforts have focused on the quality of classroom teaching and reorganising our school system to provide a solid foundation for better performance. This has improved the situation but we recognise it is only part of the solution.

“We now need to take the drive for attainment to a new level – linking attainment to aspiration and economic opportunity – and mobilising every part of the Suffolk community to contribute to this common goal.”

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With the potential of thousands of jobs in the energy sector – from new wind farms to a possible Sizewell C power station – it is seen as vital that youngsters are ready to enter the new world of work.

East Anglian Daily Times editor Terry Hunt, who will be one of the delegates at the conference, said: “This is a hugely important issue for Suffolk.

“Our young people are under-achieving, and we urgently need to raise aspirations. We also have to join up what they learn in the classroom with the massive employment opportunities which are coming our way, especially in the energy sector, with offshore wind farms and Sizewell C – assuming it happens.

“We must ensure that as many of these jobs as possible go to Suffolk people, but that will only happen if they are equipped with the right skills.

“This initiative needs to start in our primary schools and continue all the way through the education and training process. We have a huge opportunity which we simply cannot afford to miss.

“I welcome the announcement of this conference. It is the start of a crucial process which will shape the future of life for thousands of people in the county.’’

The EADT’s Maths Challenge was launched after figures showed that Suffolk was lagging below the national average in the subject.

County councillor with responsibility for young people Graham Newman said: “There are huge opportunities for Suffolk over the next few years, but the schools have to work with industry to give young people the skills they need.

“The EADT’s Maths Challenge has been a great example of this kind of work – it is giving youngsters a real interest in the kind of skills they will need in the world of work.

“Raising the Bar is all about looking at ways of ensuring youngsters are better equipped for the world of work and that they are keen and valuable to employers.”