The success of Young Mums Will Achieve

Life, when you least expect it can throw you a curve-ball which can change put you on to a new path. This could be falling pregnant whilst still at school. The consequences of dealing with all the pressures of becoming pregnant and in turn becoming a young mother, your education and taking those vital GCSE’s is often the first to fall by the wayside.

This is why the Young Mums Will Achieve project is such an important service provided by Cornwall Council to help gain those vital qualifications. This award winning project aimed at pregnant and teenage mums aged 14 to 19 years. The group meets twice a week to provide support, guidance and learning in a relaxed non-school environment. The programme runs for a whole academic year. Childcare is provided by Fit & Fun Kids and is fully funded as part of the provision on offer. Transport is also funded and provided for the programme by Cornwall Council at various locations throughout Cornwall. More information can be found HERE

This week I had the great pleasure to award certificates to over sixty young mums who had completed the course and had gained those vital educational qualifications; when it could have been so easy not to.

The different YMWA groups gave presentations on their experiences of the project, and how it had helped them achieve those qualifications. It was good to hear the young mums talk about how many of them have been accepted to do college courses. They were -and rightly so – very proud of their achievements.

It just shows projects like YMWA really work, and without these projects, most if not all would have not gained those qualifications that are so needed to get a job, attend college or university. to round the event off, all the babies and children either got a rubber duck, or bubbles.

Children’s University Awards at Tremough Campus

Earlier this week, I had the great honour of being invited to say a few words and present graduation certificates to over 70 young people at Tremough Campus who had taken part in the Children’s University programme.

The Children’s University (CU) Trust offers 7 to 14 year olds (and 5 to 6 year olds with their families) exciting and innovative learning activities and experiences outside normal school hours. The key to the programme is learning is fun, and it is not just about what you learn inside a classroom. This programme is supported by Cornwall Council.

For me it was great to see so many young people getting their certificates and the impressive range of activities they carried out as part of the programme. The awards ranged from 65 hours to a few that had amassed 600!

However, it was not just the young people who should be proud of their achievements, but also the parents, carer’s, family members and group leaders who helped the young people with the many lifts, support and time that enabled the young people take part.

Credit should also go to Lisa and her team for making this project the success it is. Finally, a big thank you should go to the campus, its staff and their Student Ambassadors who helped make this event such a success.

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Ofsted and Cornwall’s Schools

The subject of Ofsted and Cornwall’s schools has been in the news of late. This is in part due to a large secondary school being put into special measures, and other schools having their Ofsted ratings downgraded. The simplest way to explain some of the results is Ofsted have raised the all ready high bar even further. This change of inspection took place in January 2012.

Since January 2012, ninety-three Cornish schools have been inspected. Out of those, six have been judged to be outstanding; fifty-four judged to be good (of which 31 improved from satisfactory; twenty-two required improvement (six dropping from outstanding/good) and eleven placed in special measures. Overall, out of 238 primary schools in Cornwall, 83% are judged by Ofsted as ‘good or outstanding’. For the 31 secondary school it is (again) 83%.

The results get better when you look back to 2009 till the end of 2012. In 2009 only 9% of primary schools were judged as outstanding; by December 2012, this had risen to 17%, almost double since 2009. For those judged good, the figure in 2009 was 51%, and by December 2012, it had risen to 61%. Those judged satisfactory (new grading is ‘required to improve’) was 39% in 2009, but had dropped to 18% by December 2012.

The secondary school figures are just as impressive, with the number of secondary schools judged as outstanding in 2009 was just 10%, as of December it was 35%. As for the satisfactory, this was 26% in 2009. By 2012, it had dropped to 16%.

The number of schools in ‘special measures’ is 11 primary schools and 1 secondary school* This equates of just 4% of primary schools and 3% of secondary schools. Of course it is disappointing these schools have been put into special measures, but measures and help is put in place to make sure these schools improve.

I hope this blog post has explained the current situation of the Ofsted inspections in Cornwall.

*As of writing this blog post

Filming, Tweeting and Blogging at Cabinet Meetings

The Dept of Local Government has released new guidance on peoples ‘rights’ on using social media and filming equipment at executive meetings (Cabinet). This follows on from a blog post from September 2012.

The new guidance can be found HERE. One of the main points are:

The rules require councils to provide reasonable facilities for any member of the public to report on meetings. Councils should thus allow the filming of councillors and officers at meetings that are open to the public. The Data Protection Act does not prohibit such overt filming of public meetings. Councils may reasonably ask for the filming to be undertaken in such a way that it is not disruptive or distracting to the good order and conduct of the meeting. As a courtesy, attendees should be informed at the start of the meeting that it is being filmed; we recommend that those wanting to film liaise with council staff before the start of the meeting.

The new guidance also talks how much public notice must be given if a meeting (Cabinet) is held in private. The guidance says:

Prior to holding a private meeting, your council must have published on its website and at its offices at least 28 clear days notice of its intention to consider a matter in private and the reasons for the private meeting. This is to ensure that members of the public have reasonable opportunity to make representations as to why the proposed private meeting should not be held in private.

At least five clear days before the meeting, your council must confirm its intention to go ahead with the private meeting through another notice on its website and at its offices. This second notice has to include details of any representations received and the council’s response to them.

As for how the 28 days notice will impact on how Cornwall Council carries out its business, I have asked the councils legal department to look into to make sure we are fully compliant. It should be noted, Cornwall Council already has a policy on filiming – which is good – but it might need to be updated due to these new guidelines.

On the whole I fully welcome these ‘new’ guidelines, which will hope make all councils more open and transparent in its day to day business.

Visit to Livewire

As I have said before, the role of the Children’s and Young People Portfolio Holder is not just sitting in County Hall, but getting out and about to the people who deliver the various services. Today, I had the joy of visiting Livewire in Saltash. I could expand on what they do on this blog, but I really want people to visit their own webpage because it is that good of a project.

I could have spent all day with Andy and Julie Rance who are the youth workers on this project. They are both inspiring people who have a passion for music, and young people. The Livewire project has over 1200 members and they get 100’s of  young people coming through their doors each week. It is not only Saltash young people, but from places like Liskeard and Callington to name but a few who benefit from this facility. I saw first hand this facility making a difference to young people’s lives. Well done to all involved.

Andy and Julie, with some of the young people.

Andy and Julie, with some of the young people outside Livewire.

New Skate Park Planned for Porthleven

Porthleven Town Council has been working on a plan to update the skate park in Porthleven. This well used site – owned and maintained by the town council – is getting near the end of its life. So something has to be done sooner than later. The plan is not to just refurbish the site, but to do a completely new park including a proper skating surface.

The project has been set a budget of £65,000, which will do everything required to make this a great skate park. I am really pleased to say at last nights monthly meeting of the town council, the council agreed to contribute up to £20,000 toward the project. The remaining monies will be (hopefully) from grant funders. I and other members of the town council are now in the process of applying to these funders now the town council has agreed on its contribution. I hope to have most if not all of the funding in place within six months.

There are also plans for some other fundraising activities to take place, and a final consultation on the layout of the park. Below is a picture of the type of equipment the new park could expect to see for the projects budget. If you are interested in helping with the project, drop me or the town clerk an email.

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Shrubberries Hill Development Public Consultation

The application for 60 dwellings – 31 local needs and 29 open market – at Shrubberries Hill is now open for the public to make comment on. The application number for this plan is PA13/04905. This consultation will take place till the 28th of June 2013.

There are a few ways you can make your views known. These are; by letter, sent to Cornwall Council’s planning department; email, again to the planning department, or to me and I will make sure it gets to the right person. The other way you can make your view known – and I think the easiest – is to do this online.

The link to the application is HERE All you have to do is register and make your comments. The online comment is treated the same as any other comment. So there is no reason to duplicate your comment by either email, letter or both!

Please make your views known. It does not matter if you are pro or anti this application, it is very important you make a comment.

The full membership of Cornwall Council to decide on the CEO position

At the first meeting of the new administrations Cabinet, there was a discussion on the appointment (or not) of the role of CEO. Since the last CEO left to the antipodes, Cornwall Council has had an interim CEO.  

The steer the Cabinet gave is to say the decision on whether or not to appoint a CEO is taken sooner rather than later. I made the point during the debate is if the full membership agrees to appoint a Chief Officers Panel and looks for a CEO this should be done fully. Therefore I would expect the panel to look just not internally within the Council, but external too. This way even if we do appoint an internal candidate, we can be assured we have done a through job in finding the right candidate for the Council and Cornwall.

This decision is not for the Cabinet to make, but for the entire membership to decide. All the Cabinet can do is give a steer.The full debate on this issue will be at July’s meeting of the full council.

Citizenship for Life and Young Carers

The Citizenship for Life (C4L) programme for 2012/14 is now in month three . This months activity is taking place the same time as Carer’s Week, so it is only right the students learn more about this field.

During the first part of the day – hosted by the Hotel Bristol in Newquay – the twelve (I am one) mentors and mentees were introduced to some inspirational people who work within this field. One of the subjects we discussed was on young carers. During the discussion and activities, many of the young people taking part in the C4L programme are themselves young carers for either their parents or grandparents.

This got me thinking on the Young Carer’s Contract and the work Cornwall Council does with Action for Children, and how important this service is to many of the young carer’s. For £150,000 Action of Children is able to help 349 young people in Cornwall. The funding is made up by £140,000 from Cornwall Council and £10,000 from Health.

The key aims for Action for Children are:

  • The provision of direct support to young carers in the form of 1-1 support and peer activities
  • The provision of effective support to multi-agency locality teams in the development of an increased level of direct support
  • Support and make sure the voice of young carers is central in new ways of working.

For me, it was a great morning of seeing hard-working staff who feel passionately about their job and young people learning about something new to them.

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The C4L Group at Hotel Bristol

It is not just about sitting in an office

For me being a Portfolio Holder is not just about sitting in an office, it is about getting out there and showing who you are. In between the many briefings and meetings I have made the effort to get out of the office and visit people.

It is fundamental for me and I believe any portfolio holder is to talk to the staff and listen to what they have to say. This will help build relationship which will (hopefully) result in trust and understanding. And show you are also a person and not just another politico assigned the role. Sometime politicians consult staff last or do not consider the full impact on changes to staff. For me, staff is one of the most important parts in any service delivery. Get it wrong with the staff and service delivery suffers. It is not about the ‘royal visit’ but to actually spend time that will able me to see what each department does and the challenges they face.

Then there’s talking to the councils partners. Not an easy task in keeping them onside, as they all have their own and sometimes very different agendas. In the coming months I have many visits booked in and I am looking forward to seeing the work they do.

Today as part of the process getting out there and talking, I met two members (Kay and Sandra) of the Parent Carer Council (PPC). This is a great organisation which has over 850 members and works hard in highlighting the many issues faced by their membership in Cornwall. The relationship between the PPC and the council has not always been a bed of roses. However, from the meeting today, I am confident – while we will not always agree on issues – we have started our relationship on a very good footing. With clear lines of communication open and scheduled bi-monthly meetings.

And those who thought I had forgotten about my blog, I haven’t. It is still very much an important part of my role of keeping people informed.

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