National Skills Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:47 pm on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 6:47 pm, 15th May 2003

I shall be brief to allow other Members to speak. Talking at speed is something that I learned in my former life.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. One of the things that I want to stress is the need to be flexible to meet varying needs and demands. I want to draw attention to some examples of excellent work going on in and around my constituency.

Last year, I gave out awards at the end-of-year ceremony at the Greenacres primary school in my constituency. I gave awards not just to the children but to their parents, who had been attending a family learning centre in the school. That centre was set up on the initiative of the school. The biggest resource that had been put into it was the school's time and effort in getting it set up—it had to beg, borrow and steal to finance it. It works in co-operation with local further education colleges, mainly Greenwich community college, and provides basic numeracy and literacy skills and teaching for parents in how to help their children in GCSEs and other aspects of their education.

I have spoken to some of the parents who attended that centre, and they talked about wanting to fill the gaps in their education. They also talked about wanting to learn skills so that when their children go on to secondary school they have improved their employability. The school recognises the role that it can play in the local community by improving the education of adults in the local estate, and we need flexibility in the funding stream so that we can support that work and allow more schools to move into it. Alderwood school is now trying to follow suit and do exactly the same thing. It has already put its own money into setting up computer suites so that parents can come in and do the same work. Neighbourhood renewal money is provided for both schools, and both are working closely with the community college, as I said.

The other scheme to which I want to draw attention is the unique and innovative project set up by Greenwich community college, based at Charlton Athletic football club: the London leisure college. It is providing skills and training not just to local people but to the work force of Charlton Athletic, 400 of whose stewards are receiving health and safety training, first aid training and training in other basic skills. It has attracted the attention of Anschutz, which is one of the partners in the development of the peninsula and one of the primary leisure companies in the world, and will be running the millennium dome in the future. It wants to become a partner with the London leisure college to provide education, training and skills to its future staff—it plans to employ 500 at the centre.

Greenwich community college secured beacon status for London leisure college, based at Charlton Athletic. It works in partnership with Greenwich Leisure Ltd. and has played a significant part in the massive and rapid expansion of the business's operation by being flexible and meeting the business's varying demands for staff training. The fact that the project is based at Charlton Athletic means that sport can be used to attract people into education. Such people, especially young people, were excluded from school in the past and did not have a positive educational experience, but the popularity of sport is now attracting them to undertake basic skills training.

Flexibility is required to meet various needs. Further education colleges can adapt to meet the needs of businesses that want skills and education training and to support grass-roots initiatives such as those at primary schools.