Whitehaven News column – 20th February 2014

20th February 2014

Crusaders Wanted 
Are we serious about transforming our local economy? Are we serious about attracting more businesses, more investment, more economic and cultural opportunities and everything that goes with this? If so, then each and every one of us needs to join the crusade to help deliver a new secondary school campus in Whitehaven.
Too often, too many of us can lose interest in our local schools as soon as our children, grandchildren or even siblings have finished with the school system. Worse still, too many of us see the education of our children as being solely the job of the school, the problem of the teacher or the responsibility of the local education authority. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When it comes to educational attainment levels, most of this is determined by a child’s home life, not by an individual school.  Time and again, studies have shown that a child in a supportive environment where education is not only valued but prized (both as a means to an end and an end in itself) will always achieve more in school than a child in an environment without this support. As a general principle, most of us know that this is true.
What happens if we take that principle out of the home, and help to make it take hold across an entire community? What if we cared about our local schools long after our children or grandchildren had passed through them? What if we saw our schools as the repository of our town’s ambitions and the crucible of  everything that we aspire to be? I’m convinced that thousands of Whitehaven parents understand this, and without pointing any accusatory fingers, I’m equally certain that there are plenty of people for whom this isn’t understood.
There isn’t a single ambition our community has that doesn’t depend upon changing the provision of secondary education in Whitehaven. From the provision of health care to the development of a stronger more vibrant economy, everything depends upon this.  When our community comes together with a single voice, we can really make a difference. Whether with regard to the West Cumberland Hospital, the nuclear industry or more, when we act as one, we can achieve great feats. So I’m asking for your help.
Right now, I am working with Cumbria County Council, nuclear partners, St. Benedict’s School, Mayfield School and Whitehaven Academy on a plan to transform the provision of secondary education in Whitehaven. More details of the plans will be made available soon, but whether you have children or grandchildren currently going through the school system or not, I hope that you will be able to make the success of this project your concern. 
Succesful communities and vibrant economies have successful schools at their heart. There are pockets of excellence in our secondary schools, and we need to build upon this. Moreover, we need to show schools, teachers and pupils that we want to help them do this; that their success will provide the platform from which the future success of our community will be built.
My ambition is for ground to be broken on the new Whitehaven schools campus this calendar year. Your support is essential: the crusade has begun and our young people need you to become a crusader. The future of our town depends upon it.
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