Improving education and skills provision for our adult population
I believe wholeheartedly in the Government’s levelling up agenda and know that to achieve it we have to find practical ways to offer every single person in our country equal opportunity to get on in life, whoever they are, wherever they live. Levelling up is much more than just a slogan dreamt up in Westminster. It’s something that the Prime Minister and I are passionate about, and something I am determined to help deliver in our area.
The Government has previously defined levelling up as follows:
It is about increasing and spreading opportunity, because while talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. It is about improving health, education and policing, particularly where they are not good enough. It is also about strengthening community and local leadership, restoring pride in place, and improving quality of life in ways that are not just about the economy.
However, levelling up will not succeed without improving education and skills provision for our adult population, and Barnsley’s highly regarded Northern College - the only adult residential college in the North, and one of very few adult residential colleges across England - is doing exactly that.
The College, founded in 1978, has long been an important local asset, rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Whilst predominantly serving people from Yorkshire and the Humber, it also benefits students from across the country, so must be recognised as a national asset. A key feature of the college is its ability to offer residential courses - allowing adults who haven’t got a home to live in, or whose home life is chaotic, to fully take part in their learning experience.
Education and training must not just be about giving young people the chance to do an apprenticeship, go to college, or get a university degree. These opportunities have to be available to everyone, regardless of their age or past work experience. Learning new skills as an adult has been shown to support the economy and improve productivity whilst improving personal wellbeing and resilience. So I welcome new policies such as the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, through which every adult will be given the chance to study for and earn an A-Level or equivalent qualification if they left school without one. I’m also pleased to see the Government’s extension of student finance to support more adults back into education.
We will build back fairer, giving everyone the chance to realise their potential regardless of where they are from, or their background. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson
As an MP I want to play my part in securing opportunities for local people across our towns and villages. By engaging with Barnsley College and Sheffield College, and our local secondary schools, I am supporting them in their ambitions to grow and provide more places and courses in our area. And the Stocksbridge Towns Fund that I co-chair will bring post-16 education back to the town for the first time in many years, with a new hub at Stocksbridge High School.
There has recently been some uncertainty around the future of the Northern College, particularly in light of the challenges presented to such institutions by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am clear that the College has a central role to play as a provider of adult education locally and nationally and I will continue to work closely with the College's leadership and other key stakeholders to support them in their future direction.
People shouldn't be forced to leave their communities in order to find good jobs and education.
Our communities will only thrive when we recognise the value in bringing opportunities closer to people and giving everyone the chance to succeed. Having local education providers who can adapt to the needs of the community is an important part of that, and that's why I will continue to work hard to support the future of the Northern College here in the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency.
Prison Leavers: Support into Employment - May 17
"Northern College in my constituency is a resident education college that gives disadvantaged adults a second chance at adult education. Many students are former prisoners, but thanks to the college’s outstanding tuition and pastoral support, they go on to achieve educational success and secure well-paid employment. Sadly, the funding for such colleges is under threat, so will my right hon. Friend work with colleagues in the Department for Education to secure the future of Northern College and ensure that former prisoners continue to have access to this amazing opportunity to turn their lives around?
Dr Coffey - Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue. I will absolutely share her concerns on the specific college to which she refers, Northern College. As I say, the Government are committed to helping ex-offenders to re-establish themselves back into the community and into work. As part of the Government taskforce, though, I am very keen to help prisoners get the right job skills while they are still in prison so they can walk straight out of prison into the world of work. However, the elements to which she refers will continue to be important in ensuring that people stay in jobs and succeed in jobs.