Northumberland presents a mixed picture in terms of educational attainment. In the county as a whole GCSE performance is generally above the national average. Although A level results are less impressive, rates of progression to Higher Education are in line with the rest of the country. However there is something of a “tale of two counties” within this theme, with educational prospects varying widely between communities. Thus, for example, a number of the more deprived wards in the county are in the top 10% most educationally deprived wards in England whilst others lie comfortably in the best 30%. Closing this gap would improve the life prospects of many young people and enhance their potential to contribute to Northumberland’s future prosperity.
Although Northumberland is doing reasonably well in terms of qualifications below university degree level, the rate of young people who are not in employment, education or training is higher than the national average. This, in part, underpins the county’s higher level of unqualified workers. For those that struggled in education earlier in life, that now want to gain qualifications or re-engage with learning after school, community and voluntary organisations can help provide a route back into learning.
Learning is not all about qualifications for employment, as important as that may be. It is also about getting to know one’s rights and responsibilities as a resident of a thriving community with a rich heritage. The work of voluntary groups in building within children and young people in Northumberland a sense of belonging to their local area, is an important part of ensuring the county retains its strong sense of community.
Philanthropic support helped North Tynies Childcare Centre in Bellingham update its IT and data systems to meet Ofsted requirements.
“To keep parents up to date with their child’s development, we have installed new IT equipment and a digital recording system”, says Jennie Holland, Centre Manager. “Previously, we used a manual paper system with outdated IT that didn’t have the capacity to record the level of information necessary for parents and government funders. This system allows us to provide a better service for parents and ensure children have the best possible start in life.”
Alan and Eileen Ferguson hold a corporate fund for their family business, Ferguson’s of Blyth, and established a fund for each of their three daughters to support their transition to adulthood: Eileen explains:
“Through the Fergusons of Blyth Fund, Alan and I support a variety of projects in Northumberland. As a responsible business we share resources and this has developed into a personal passion as we learn more about the causes in our region. As part of our daughter’s personal development we have established funds where they can choose their own worthy causes to support. By giving our children this gift we’re able to grow our families’ culture of giving, and hope to spark a passion and a sense of compassion and understanding.”