Thursday, 30 August 2012

Exam results...

The anxious wait that teenagers have to endure for their A Level and GCSE results is finally over and many young people locally have cause to celebrate. I was at Redruth School on the day their A Level results came in and they had achieved a 99.3 percent pass rate, with results that were significantly above both the national and the county average, with a couple of students on course for Oxford and Cambridge.

Redruth has made rapid progress in the last few years and is recognised by the Department for Education as one of the top 100 performing schools in the country based on sustained improvement in academic achievement. Camborne Science and International Academy also had another good year with all their students intending to go to university securing their places.

I have been really impressed by all of the secondary schools in this area. Hayle does good work on languages, Camborne has cut out a niche on international exchanges, Pool is consistently rated highly by Ofsted and Redruth has a strong sports department. There is a healthy but friendly competition that exists between all of our schools and they learn from one another. Three of the four schools have introduced new, smarter school uniforms in the last couple of years and all are doing more on science and languages, looking at international exchanges and trying new methods of intervention to support children falling behind. Most important of all, when you visit our schools, there is a real sense of pride and aspiration which is great to see.

There is also good work being done in primary schools. On a visit to Pool Academy last year with Michael Gove, we saw Year 8 pupils at Pool helping year 6 children from one of the local primaries learn to read. Quality primary education is vital because, unless you get the basics right by the time children start secondary school, they are in danger of falling behind and losing interest.

I think it is important to create a culture of excellence in the education system where schools are constantly striving to achieve more for all children, whether by stretching the most academic children so that they can go to university or giving additional support to help inspire those falling behind. The government has made a number of changes aimed at raising standards still further from making the inspection regime more demanding to creating a new “English Baccalaureate” to recognise schools who achieve good results in difficult subjects. Many schools have become independent academies and now control their own budget. Next term, there will be a new catholic school opening in Camborne under the “free schools” policy, giving local parents even more choice. You only get one education, so we must do all we can to make it a success.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Getting back to work...

I have always been clear that economic regeneration is my number one priority locally. The towns of Camborne, Redruth and Hayle all made an astonishing contribution to the industrial revolution but in recent years, things have been harder, key industries went in to decline, there was a loss of confidence followed by the growth of welfare dependency which has trapped too many people in poverty.

Despite the gloom and doom that you hear in the news, when it comes to unemployment there have been some encouraging signs which might mean we have started to turn the corner. Unemployment has been falling for five months now, including here in Camborne and Redruth. For the first time we have started to see more young people between the ages of 16-24 finding jobs. This is important because youth unemployment started rising as long ago as 2005, even as the world economy was booming, and the longer people are out of work, the harder it is to start.

People sometimes say that there is high unemployment locally, but if you look at the facts we are actually about average and mid way down the table compared with other towns across the country. I am by no means complacent but we should not talk ourselves down. I would like to see more jobs and better paid jobs locally and I think there are a number of things that must be done. First we need to attract new industries and support the construction of new infrastructure that will unlock the potential of derelict land and create jobs.

Secondly we need to ensure that we have a skilled workforce to encourage employers to locate here and that is why I think the expansion of real apprenticeships has been so important so that young people can learn skills in a real working environment while also earning money.

Finally, we need really intensive support to help those who have been out of work for a long time, have lost their confidence and are trapped on benefits. Sometimes you see households where people have not worked for two or three generations and it is a really damaging cycle which leads to wasted human potential. In the long term, it does no favours to those condemned to a life on benefits.

Last week I met a new organisation which has recently started up in Cornwall which runs intensive courses to motivate people and raise their confidence and self esteem ready for work. They often encourage those attending the courses to do unpaid voluntary work initially and they are getting good results with the majority of those doing unpaid work trials being offered paid jobs afterwards. We need to cut through the defeatism and let it be known that Camborne, Redruth and Hayle are towns that get things done.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Olympics

Britain looks set to have its most successful Olympics ever, with athletes making history and, in some cases, winning events we have never won before. I spent last Saturday night with friends and watched what was undoubtedly the best night for British athletics in a lifetime, with Team GB collecting three gold medals in the space of just one hour. Mo Farah made history by being the first British man ever to win gold in the Olympic 10,000 metres, Greg Rutherford seemed to surprise himself with his extraordinary performance in the Long Jump and the determined performance by Jessica Ennis to win that final 800m metre event in her heptathlon and take overall victory was a priceless moment of the Games.

Cornish athletes have also played a big part in the success of Team GB with seven athletes in the team in all. It was great to see Helen Glover drive ahead to take Britain’s first gold of the Games and to watch the tenacious Ben Ainsley win the sailing for the fourth time, a remarkable achievement.

The pride across the country during these Olympic Games makes the riots which shamed some of Britain’s cities a year ago feel like a completely different era. Much has been said about the importance of a legacy from the Olympics but I hope that the most important legacy will be a whole new generation of young people inspired to take up sport and strive to do their best. In the space of just two weeks, we have seen the emergence of many new role models for young people and they come from all sorts of different backgrounds and reflect the diverse nature of Britain today. The great thing about sporting role models is that they are not just about celebrity for the sake of it, they are first and foremost about real achievement and excellence through hard work and dedication and their notoriety becomes incidental.

Earlier this summer, Cornwall held its second Schools Games where over three thousand young people from Cornish Schools took part in over 20 different sports and I presented the awards at the athletics contest at Carn Brea. It was like a mini version of the Olympics Games and I think it is a great way of raising the status of sport in our schools. I used to be a member of Cornwall Athletic Club when I was younger and running was my passion. I was not fast enough to make the Olympic Team but have fond memories of my time running for Cornwall and it is great to see Cornwall Athletic Club going strong today. At that time, the rivalry between Coe and Ovett boosted middle distance running for years. Let’s hope that these Olympic Games kick starts a golden era for British sport.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Pengegon

Parliament has now broken up for the summer which is a good opportunity to catch up with work in Cornwall. During August, I hold public meetings around the constituency so that people have an opportunity to ask questions or discuss individual problems they might need help with and I also try to visit as many parish and town councils as possible.

This week one of the meetings I held was at Pengegon. I have followed the growing confidence in Pengegon in recent years with interest. It is a great example of how having a few people in a community willing to make that initial effort can spread really quickly and inspire the rest of the neighbourhood too. I am not pretending that all is rosy in the garden. Pengegon undoubtedly has its share of poverty and these are difficult times. At my meeting this week, concerns about youth unemployment loomed large. But there is also growing pride and commitment within this community and that really matters.

Pengegon is often named as being the most deprived area in Cornwall. I have always thought that politicians and councillors should be careful when talking in broad terms about “deprived communities” because there is a danger they sound patronising. Many of those who live in Pengegon will have overcome adversity in their lives that a desk bound official could not understand and they are often more grounded and more resilient people because of that.

Last year when council officials published figures which cast Pengegon in a negative light, there was something of a backlash. Local residents called in the West Briton and let it be known in no uncertain terms that they were tired of seeing their community talked down and they highlighted some of the good work being done by local residents. Quite right too.

There are now some sixty young people taking part in football training sessions; there is a basketball team; a few weeks ago 22 people from the estate attended a training session at Stithians lake to learn about course fishing which looks set to continue; there are support groups for young parents and next Thursday the whole community will hold its annual family Fun Day which was really well attended when I went last year. Most important of all, people have become more neighbourly and look out for one another. Crime and anti-social behaviour in the area has tumbled.

There is more to do and top of the list is accelerating the plan to build a long awaited, new community centre to pull all the good work together under one roof and we also need to bring new industries and better paid jobs to Camborne. But the progress at Pengegon is proof that where there is a will, there is a way.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.