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THIS summer once again saw a rise in the number of Newcastle students achieving respectable AS/A-level results, BTEC First and national awards and GCSE results. Given the many months lost in face-to-face learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic city students should be proud of their achievements.

Furthermore, hundreds more adults have attained success on Access to HE courses, most of whom will start university next month. Several of these learners have had to cope with part-time jobs, child care responsibilities or caring for disabled and older relatives, whilst following intensive level 3 courses in three academic or vocational subjects.

Research indicates that the vast majority of these students, mostly from working-class disadvantaged backgrounds, achieve good 2i degrees after three years of higher education study, whilst juggling with competing responsibilities.

But we mustn’t forget the huge numbers of vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, who have attained success on accredited and ‘direct payment’ courses at various levels. These achievements have boosted their self-confidence and self-esteem, and have enabled many to go onto further education programmes and entry-level employment.

As most parents recognise getting a decent education sets youngsters up life. That’s why Newcastle City Council alongside its parner organisations like City Learn and Newcastle College, set up the ‘Newcastle Bursary Scheme’ a decade ago to ensure that every young person, regardless of their social background, can succeed in post-16 education.

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In 2010 the Coalition Government ignored the advice of educationalists and scrapped Labour’s popular Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) – making it harder for North East youngsters from low-income backgrounds to stay in further education and to fulfil their potential. Socio-economic status or class shouldn’t be a barrier to continuing in vocational education or academic learning. Supporting equality of access and opportunity to education for the many, not just the select few remains a top priority for the Council, the North of Tyne Combined Authority and local colleges of further education.

This academic year the ‘Bursary’ has helped over 1,400 city youngsters continue their education. This is a good example of the local council stepping in to support 16 to 19-year olds who wish to do A-level courses or BTEC National job related programmes at school or college.

When the Labour -run council came to power in 2011, it stated that education and training, together with tackling worklessness and inequality would be its top priorities. Improving the aspirations of every pupil in Newcastle, by raising standards and promoting equality and inclusion remains at the heart of the Council’s agenda.

Stephen Lambert, Newcastle City Councillor and an Assistant Cabinet Member

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