This year we have seen a record A level results for schools in Kent, and my congratulations go to everyone involved; teachers, students and of course those supporting friends and family members who often find the whole process more nerve-wracking than the people actually taking the exams. Today it will be the turn of GCSE students to get their results and I would like to wish all of them the best of luck.
So as August draws towards its end thousands of local students will not now be thinking not of going back to school, but instead what they are going to do now that their school careers are over. School’s out, but what’s in? Some of course will have got the grades they were looking for to continue their studies at the universities and colleges of their choice, and other will be looking to join the world of work.
In the schools I have visited across Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh over the last three years I have always been impressed by the dedication of the staff and students and the great breadth of subjects now taught. In my working life I have often been involved in interviewing students to join graduate employment schemes and have consistently been impressed with the professionalism with which they present themselves. There is no lack of endeavour, but this year, in these difficult times, there will simply not be enough reward to go around.
New research has show that as many as one in six young people aged between 16 and 23 are now not in education, employment or training, and this is affecting schools leavers through to university graduates. Youth unemployment is now at near record levels. Large companies are cutting back on the number of graduates they will employ, training schemes and budgets are being cut, and apprenticeships cancelled. In a recession, unemployment can strike at any time, but it is the young who can suffer particularly badly.
Whilst the recession is making the jobs market harder, I think the key to success in the long term is focusing on getting the basics right. To make sure that all children leaving primary school can read and write to an acceptable standard, that academic education is stretching enough to prepare students for higher education, and that vocational training is giving people the skills they need for work. Government has a role to play in setting standards, but results are best achieved at a local level where people are closer to the problems and have a better understanding of the opportunities. This means trusting Head teachers and Governors to run their schools, working with local authorities like Kent and local employers to support more training and apprenticeships and having faith in the ability of our young people, whatever their start in life, to reach their full potential.
Damian is pictured above visiting Highview School in Folkestone with Michael Howard MP and John Bercow MP