That is exactly the sort of vision that we hope to have in Northumberland. Given the enormous expanse of territory, the challenge for our children is the need to spend hours travelling in order to achieve the flexibility and the breadth of education to which those living in a city, or even in a less sparsely populated county, might have easier access.
If children are indeed to fulfil their dreams, we will need departmental leadership from the Minister to help Northumberland County Council host the new concept. I understand that education action zones used to exist, and I also understand that £77 million has recently been allocated to education output areas, but that will be directed towards the development of education in cities. Northumberland, our most sparsely populated English county, needs such investment too.
I have always been a believer in nudge politics. We humans always respond better to encouragement and carrots than to chastisement and sticks. However, if long-term outcomes for the children of Northumberland are to be as good as they can be, we need university voices to be heard in rural communities where aspiration to a top-quality education, whether it involves apprenticeships in engineering or university studies in the sciences—I speak as a mathematician, and I apologise for the bias—are still not always understood or valued. What is considered elitist and far beyond can become within reach: indeed, education for life can become a passion for all those children. The 21st century, in which they will live, demands that we accept our responsibility to give them the tools and the passion to learn, as well as all the standard basic skills. That should be taken more seriously than it has been in the most northern county of England for too long.
I want to see an educational leadership framework that gives each and every one of my schools the nudge that they need to rise to the educational challenges ahead by supporting them with a coherent educational framework of which everyone is a part. There would be no rivalries, no catchment area battles, no school partnership lines in the sand, but an overarching educational Northumberland nudge partnership. As the Minister himself said in a speech last week,
“a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
The teachers and councillors of my beautiful, unique and most sparsely populated of English counties wish to do exactly that for the children in their care.