The last four weeks for me have had a strong focus on education. All in all I’ve visited five secondary schools, meeting with the head teacher at each. These meetings have been extremely useful and have given me a real insight into the challenges there are within our schools.
During my meetings a number of themes have emerged that I plan to raise with the appropriate people and Government organisations over the comings months. Teacher recruitment and retention seems to be an issue at many of our schools. Yes this is a national problem also but there do seem to be some factors specific to Ipswich that need to be addressed. It’s important that being a teacher in Ipswich schools is as attractive as possible. Great teachers should be attracted to come to Ipswich and its about finding a way of making teaching in Ipswich schools as appealing as possible. It’s not good that many of our Head’s are constantly worried about losing some of their best teachers.
Last year it was announced that Ipswich would be an Education Opportunity Area. In short this is bringing millions of pounds of extra Government money into schools in Ipswich. This needs to be welcomed. I’ve been very interested to learn about some of the ways this extra money has been spent. Some excellent initiatives have been launched in Ipswich schools as a result of the Government making Ipswich and Education Opportunity Area. However, concerns were also raised about the strings attached with accessing the funding. My view is that we need to trust our teachers to get on with the job of investing the extra money in initiatives they know will work for their school. Yes there needs to be sound process but we need to minimize the bureaucratic burden placed upon teachers who are already under a significant amount of pressure.
Unsurprisingly, each of the head teachers also raised concerns about county lines. It’s sickening that many young vulnerable people in Ipswich can become the victim to this. The only way that we can hope to tackle this is by working together. Multi agency. Close working and strong relationships between school leaders and the police is an absolute must. The pastoral support provided by schools in many cases appears to be very strong. However, its important that teachers should be able to focus fully on the teaching. The pressure on teachers in our schools is significant and their roles more diverse than many seem to realise.
In summary then there is much to be positive about. We have some great teachers and in general all the schools I’ve visited appear to be heading in the right direction and improving. However they face many challenges. Funding, teacher recruitment and retention, county lines being three that immediately spring to mind. Our secondary schools vary as do their intakes and some of the challenges they face are therefore different. My initial view is that Suffolk schools need fairer funding from central Government, there needs to be more initiatives and thought given to make teaching in Ipswich schools as attractive as possible (financial incentives may need to be considered), and there needs to be strong and close working relationships between the schools and the police when it comes to county lines and other anti-social behaviour problems. Ideally there needs to be one person within the police who is responsible for liaison with a particular school. Its important that senior teachers are able to develop close relationships based on trust with the local police.
The Education Opportunity Area for Ipswich will last for three years and we’re one year in. The funding is very welcome but at its best the initiative could be transformational for Ipswich schools. It’s important that one year in the concerns teachers have raised associated with the bidding process are addressed. We need to ensure that the initiative is a game changer for schools in Ipswich and a real catalyst for the future. The opportunity should not be missed.
I have almost finished my tour of secondary schools within Ipswich at which point I will start visiting some of our primary schools. This Friday I will also be meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Suffolk.
When you first become a Councillor, apart from the great honour and excitement you, feel it changes your life completely. Suddenly, residents are asking you for help: some with very private and sad issues, others asking for help on matters that involve, perhaps, a whole area. When I was first elected, back in 2002, one of the biggest issues that came to light was a planning application for building on the area known as the Woodland off Mitre Way. This application and subsequent ones failed, which was purely because the residents came together to fight the applicant and even this year we have been successful again. In Holywells Ward we have had some really testing issues over the years: traffic lights at the top of Bishops Hill; the proposed large bridge so close to Cliff Lane and still ongoing; a proposal to put a supermarket where Holmes Oak Court is now right next to the Park; not cutting the grass along Nacton Road and Clapgate Lane and many more. So working together the Power of the People is a very successful tool.
Often services are improved in the area you represent because of your work with the community – pavements, grass cutting, road improvements including calming measures, parking issues, the need for more buses, bus shelters, more police the list is endless. Councillors just have to be persistent.
In Holywells Ward, Associated British Ports is very important. Not only does it employ local people it plays a big part in the community. This is also the case with the University and Suffolk New College and having students living amongst us is a great asset locally and for the rest of the town. It is also important to involve local businesses, restaurants and to promote local charities in their work in the town and in the Ward you represent.
I have to say over the 16 years I have been a Councillor I have found residents are keen to improve their local areas and to help where they can by taking part in community events. I have also found that the schools, churches, Friends Groups, charities, Community Interest Companies and businesses all pull together when there is a need and I have been very proud to help and to represent them and the residents in Holywells Ward.
Ipswich is the County Town of Suffolk and, although the Borough boundary is small, its economy supports a far wider area. Already there are thousands of people coming into Ipswich every day of the week and this will only rise as other smaller areas, outside of our control, grow in size.
We offer the major employment opportunities in the area.
We offer the biggest & best culture and leisure in the area.
We offer the best shopping in the area (despite the issues with the Town Centre)
Thousands of people from outside Ipswich benefit from the services operated and paid for by Ipswich Borough Council. Why shouldn’t you, as Council Tax payers benefit from this?
Conservative Councillors believe we should all benefit, to take a share in the success of our Town.
It’s a simple policy really, Ipswich residents should get a discount on services operated by the Borough such as Car Parks, the Regent, the Corn Exchange, Sports Centres etc. The cost for this would be met by non-residents paying extra to cover the costs.
As tax-payers we all shoulder the responsibility if things fail, why shouldn’t we share in their success.
A vote for a Conservative Councillor in the next local elections will help make Council Tax fairer for all of us,
Following on from this, here is an extract (p.260) from Lord Tebbit’s autobiography Upwardly Mobile, in which he tells us about a Party Political Broadcast he released with subtitles. Alas, because the other parties didn’t produce their broadcasts the same way, the BBC initially turned it down.
Why does the appearance of parts of Ipswich town centre vary from a little bit run-down to smart and tidy?
You can take a look at the former Queen’s Head public house building at the top of Civic Drive.
It’s a right dilapidated mess with peeling paint and dirty windows. Ipswich Borough Council is the ultimate landlord but does not seem to care about its deteriorated condition. There is a lovely new restaurant next door in the former Iceland store. But the former pub is a prime spot at the entry to the town centre, and lets the town down. The Conservative group at the Borough Council have repeatedly pressed the Labour council gives it a tidy up, but Labour have refused to take any responsibility. Conservative Councillors even offered to paint the exterior themselves but the Labour councillor responsible made an excuse and rejected this generous offer ! It seems the Labour councillors want this area to look scruffy.
There have been a number of homeless people living in tents in the Elm Street and Civic Drive area. On the grass area in Civic Drive, the tents remaining were abandoned and mysteriously caught fire 2 days later and the fire brigade had to extinguish the potentially damaging blaze. Yet the Borough Council took over 2 weeks to tidy up the charred remains and other dumped camping materials. Why didn’t they clear the mess up immediately?
You can then look at the smartened up Princes Street area from the railway station up to the Civic Drive area. Why is this area so much more attractive now? It is partly because the previous Conservative MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, worked with the government and councils to allocate this an Enterprise Zone. This means businesses pay reduced or nil business rates for up to 5 years and the Conservative government reimburses the local authority for their reduced rates. The Borough Council has taken advantage of this, through their arms length company, Ipswich Borough Assets, helping to develop the Birketts building.
So my conclusion is where the Labour Borough Council wants parts of the town to look run-down and scruffy, they do absolutely nothing. But where private sector developers, possibly working in conjunction with a Conservative government initiative, the incentive is there for everyone to work together to improve the visual appearance. The refurbished Buttermarket shopping centre is another great example of private sector money investing in improving Ipswich.