Friday, 28 November 2008


I just had to add this to the blog, as it is positive news for a change.

The Regional Minister for the West Midlands, Ian Austin, today announced that Advantage West Midlands has confirmed its support for a £36 million investment into the £282 million project, for a state of the art learning quarter in Stoke on Trent.

The University Quarter in Stoke on Trent will bring together Staffordshire Univsersity, Stoke on Trent FE College and Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College, in a unique learning quarter.

The improvement will include new shared facilities for the college and the university, as well as commercial and residential development. The University Quarter will see major improvements to an important area of Stoke on Trent, between the railway station and the city centre.

A major focus for the University Quarter will be to drive up aspirations and skills to meet the needs of local employers. A business Centre has already been set up, to ensure that businesses in the area have access to the new facilities, and that the courses on offer are tailored for the needs of their employees.

£180 million has already been secured from the Learning and Skills Council, Staffs University, Stoke on Trent FE College, Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College, Stoke on Trent City Council and Advantage West Midlands. The rest of the investment will come from Higher Education Funding Council for England, RENEW North Stafforshire and the private sector.

Ian Austin , Regional Minister said

“I want to make sure that the economic downturn does not delay the regeneration of Stoke,and the investment we want to see in North Staffordshire.
“And I’m determined to ensure we improve education, training and skills in the area because that is the only way we’ll bring to Stoke the new highly-skilled and well-paid jobs on which the area’s prosperity will depend in the future.
“We need to make driving up skills our number one priority because the only way we will be able to attract and develop high-tech innovative businesses we’ll need in the future is by showing investors we’ve got the skills they’re looking for. “This project will see a massive improvement to an area of Stoke-on-Trent, which to many visitors is their first introduction to the City.

Mick Laverty, Chief Executive at Advantage West Midlands said

“In these times of economic uncertainty it is even more important that we do not lose momentum on this flagship project. This announcement shows AWM’s continuing commitment to the regeneration of North Staffordshire.
“Not only will the University Quarter help to raise the aspirations and educational attainments of local people, it will also regenerate a major site within Stoke-on-Trent for the benefit of the whole community, bringing nearly 1,000 new jobs and hundreds of new businesses to the City.

The Portfolio Holder for Enterprise and Culture , Councillor Hazel Lyth said

"This £36m of funding will help the University to train a highly skilled workforce for the future. The city has a commitment to get as many people into skilled jobs as possible, and this means increased access to higher education.
"We will have a smooth transition for students at local colleges to move on to Staffordshire University, and it will help us increase the amount of people available to take on high quality jobs. The funding will also help with the major physical regeneration of the University Quarter as part of the wider North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership, and help in creating a positive image for Stoke-on-Trent."

This makes sense doesn't it, to place the colleges all in the same area, and link them to the University. Hopefully, this will form closer links with the college and universites, and will encourage people to go onto University. I have seen the new Stoke on Trent (Cauldon Campus) building, and it does look as if it will be pretty impressive, when finished.

Well done to everyone involved in this project!! What do you think?


nicky said...

I have to say I went to an open evening at Stoke-on-Trent sixth form college recently and was hugely impressed (obviously at the Fenton site but to me buildings are not of key importance). I say very well done to all the teachers (particularly from the physics, chemistry and maths departments), other staff and students who were extremely helpful and enthusiastic. My son and I had all our questions answered very well. It seemed to me there is great commitment and caring and an approach that develops students as independent and responsible learners.

What worries me greatly is what will happen in 2010 when the Learning and Skills Council goes and 16-19 education moves back to Local Authority control. What worries me even more is my fear that SOT council will extend SERCOs contract! Given the educational vandalism that is being inflicted by SERCO et al. in the reorganisation of high school education, it fills me with utter dread to think what they may do to sixth form education! So as with high school, my son will just about make it through unscathed while my daughter will be caught up in the demolition. And I don’t really mean buildings. I’m fine with moving the sixth form college. It’s what is happening (with high schools) and might happen (with sixth form education) in terms of demolishing and punishing great management, teaching, governance, community involvement and student choice, that I’m bothered about.

My advice to anyone would be not to let SERCO near it.

And beware the government. By that I mean this one and the next one, as I’m not convinced the tories will be any better for education. Beware the words they use:

Opportunity = what we will force you to do whether you like it or not.
Diversity = our crazy ideas only, we don’t care what you think.
Choice = what we dictate that you do.
Community involvement = be quiet and do what you are told.
Education = buildings, development and land deals – learning irrelevant.

I’m only cynical because of current experience and policies. Maybe there is still hope for a future where real people, students and teachers matter? But government will need to review its policy and the way it operates. For the future of sixth form education, please retain all that is great about it now and build on that, don’t discard it and replace it with something inferior.

Tim Mullen said...

Nicky, I know my experience is some while ago now, but when I was a student at Newcastle College we had a lot of ex-Sixth Form students who had not enjoyed their time there and were much more successful at Newcastle.

But on a more relevant point, perhaps this is something that everyone here can take-up as a campaign: SERCO were not brought in to run education in Stoke-on-Trent - they were parachuted in because Children's Services were failing (looked-after children, at-risk children, etc.). It was only because this service was merged with education, which was actually flourishing under Nigel Rigby, that SERCO became involved with our schools.

My experience from my late father being a Social Worker with at-risk children on his case file (and the nightmares that he suffered because of these poor kids) is that Children's Services should be a totally seperate department from education, as the two don't mix.

Therefore, why don't Pitsnpots bloggers lobby their own councillors - irrespective of political inclination - to demerge education and children's services under the new Council structure post-June 2009, and let a professional educator (in the Nigel Rigby mould) get back to running education in Stoke-on-Trent?

Shaun Bennett said...

I couldn't disagree with you more Tim. When I was a student at Stoke 6th Form (albeit some 8 years ago) I found it an extremely friendly environment, the teachers were excellent, and there was such a nice atmosphere there that I found myself very, very happy indeed. My experiences at Staffs Uni were similarly happy, although I'm afraid my impression of Keele was nowhere near as good.

I'm quite sorry that the 6th form is going to me moving from its present site. But as long as the good practices that I saw are also successfully transplanted, then I'm sure it will flourish in any location.

warren said...

Tim, yes, Newchastle was the place to be in the early 80s, I went there for 81 untill 83, I can remember your name from that time to, we did have a lot of lads and girls who had a hard time at the 6th form but seemed to get on better at Newchastle. Shaun, myself and Tim are talking a long time ago now, right old buggers we are now, jusus its 25 years ago now, that makes me feel very old indeed.
As for the £36,000,000, it can only be good for the city to have this kind of investment in higher education, hopefully the genrel public will be aloud to use some of the things it may bring. It also may go someway to bring a very much needed feel good factor to the area, and thats no bad thing at all.