Rochdale has an enviable record when it comes to education and training for post-16 year olds. Rochdale Sixth Form college and Hopwood Hall Further Education college are up there amongst the best in the country.
And yet what has always seemed crazy to me, post-16 education has always been the Cinderella service when it comes to government funding.
Everyone is looking to the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the coming weeks to make creating and keeping jobs, the centrepiece of government action – we’ve got to have a jobs-led recovery from the Covid crisis.
But if we are to make sure we don’t have an abandoned generation of young people in the way we saw under the Margaret Thatcher era, education and skills training has got to leap up the nation’s priorities.
That’s why I’ve written to the Education Secretary applauding the fact that some more money has been promised to get our primary and secondary schools back into operation, but insisting that our post-16s do not miss out.
That’s a message I hope the government will listen to; Rochdale has too many young people who need the high-quality skills of the future to build their own futures and the rest of us need that generation to get into the workplace to play their part in making the Rochdale of tomorrow a Rochdale of skills and prosperity.
It’s a lot more than a bit rich for Prime Minister Johnson to try to blame care homes for the Coronavirus when he claimed, “too many care homes didn’t follow the procedures in the way they could have”.
Cast your mind back to when the government was telling us that coronavirus wouldn’t be transmitted in care homes and the genuinely shocking delays in making Personal Protective Equipment available didn’t matter. It did matter. It put at risk care home residents and care home workers and, very sadly, many people died as a result.
The blame game can’t allow Mr Johnson to try to point the finger at people like care home workers, who put themselves at risk in looking after others, when the real responsibility lay with those who advised our so ill-prepared Prime Minister.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 9 July 2020.