Torbay students benefit from one of the strongest education offers in region

Paignton Academy has already benefited from Government funding

Paignton Academy has already benefited from Government funding - Credit: Submitted

The third lockdown is a tough time for all, whether struggling businesses, vulnerable people shielding or teenagers unable to see their mates but despite this, there is sterling work being undertaken throughout our communities in Torbay.

This week, I will be focusing on the work of those in our education settings.

Our schools are doing amazing work in difficult circumstances from running virtual classes, keeping schools open for children of key workers, to ensuring no child in Torbay goes hungry.

I couldn’t be prouder of  what they are doing to support our young people.

I regularly make time to have conversations with head teachers across Torbay, these inspirational people who radiate commitment and concern for pupils and staff.

We are fortunate to have people with such empathy and commitment to our young people here.

For me as a Liberal Democrat, the backbone of changing society for the better is a strong education opportunity with high aspirations for our young people.

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It is uplifting to know that our students in Torbay benefit from one of the strongest education offers in the South West. 

As a local authority, we have been campaigning for more funding to support improvements in educational facilities as demand for places increases.

In April, 2020, Torbay Council secured £8.6m from the Department for Education to enable improvements across our educational estate.

St Cuthbert Mayne School and Paignton Academy have already benefited from this funding.

It is being used to accommodate more pupils through expansions to existing buildings and to improve facilities which add to the learning and teaching experience.

The Brunel Academy and Burton Academy, both part of the Catch 22 Multi-Academies Trust, provide learning facilities for young people with special educational needs.

During this financial year they have both benefited from significant council investment to ensure that young people aged 11 to 16 have access to high-quality teaching and learning so they can achieve life skills and meaningful qualifications.

The Brunel Academy is a secondary school for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

It recently opened a new vocational centre to provide pupils with the opportunity to learn new skills in catering, hospitality, mechanics and construction.

This is the second phase of £1.5m of improvements which were approved by us to ensure that young people flourish.

Phase One was completed in spring 2019 after we purchased land for a new multi-use games area and new entrance for the school.

Burton Academy, which is currently split across two sites 5.5 miles apart, received £1m of capital funding and land from us to expand buildings at the main site.

This will enable the academy to come together on one site and create a new outdoor area when construction ends this year.

The new building will provide specialist accommodation for all subjects, plus the ability to broaden the curriculum to include science, PR, citizenship and independent living skills.

Combe Pafford School, which caters for pupils with moderate learning difficulties, recently won the regional SME Employer of the Year award  at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020.

The awards recognise employers who have put apprenticeships at the heart of the business and reaped the benefits.

More than 30 apprentices have gone through the school’s programme, the majority into employment.

Our Early Years Team recently nominated Warberries Care Home Intergenerational Childminders for a Nursery World Award, and have been shortlisted in the inclusive practice category.

The team and the nursing home developed a pioneering scheme which enables children and residents to come together on a daily basis. Winners will be announced on February 4.

As a council, we have a duty and moral imperative to ensure that Torbay’s most vulnerable pupils are given the best possible start in life.

One of our significant challenges continues to be supporting children from more deprived backgrounds.

The pandemic has hit these students harder than those from wealthier homes and so we need to reinforce our support for these students as we move out of the pandemic.