London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

I am delighted that the National Youth Theatre have been awarded funding from the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund to partner with Samuel Rhodes School in Islington. This will develop a model of creative education and employment opportunities to help young people understand the positive choices open to them and to achieve their potential, in spite of the learning barriers they may experience.

This project combines two things which are close to my heart. Firstly, the National Youth Theatre is a charity which I have supported for many years. It is great to have such a fantastic initiative within my constituency, encouraging the careers of such luminaries as Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Hugh Bonneville, Catherine Tate, Matt Smith and Zawe Ashton.

The National Youth Theatre aims to give free and affordable opportunities both onstage and backstage to young people aged 14-25 from all corners of the UK. They seek out the most diverse and the most talented through an active audition programme and community engagement. These young people are then offered unique, life-changing experiences working with some of the UK’s leading professional directors, writers, producers, designers and stage managers. Ultimately, the calibre of their output is invariably superb and electrifying to watch.

The second element of the project which is close to my heart is its focus upon offering Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) support. This is why I am particularly pleased that the National Youth Theatre is partnering with Samuel Rhodes School. It matters to me that SEND pupils have access to the same opportunities as their peers, and I applaud the work of the Samuel Rhodes School in working to make this possible.

The partnership between the two organisations will start this autumn and last for three years. During this time pupils will engage with National Youth Theatre’s Associate Artist practitioners and their young Members. This inclusive approach will support the engagement of young people from Samuel Rhodes with the full range of what the National Youth Theatre offers. The long term goal of the project is to reduce the vulnerability of the young people involved, moving them away from risks of criminality and helping them to make positive choices about their futures.

I would to thank the Mayor of London for his part in making this vital collaborative project possible, but I particularly want to applaud the National Youth Theatre and Samuel Rhodes for their tireless commitment to supporting some of our most vulnerable, but promising young people. I await the results with anticipation and look forward to hearing about how the partnership progresses.

Photograph shows National Youth Theatre inclusion programme workshop with Highshore School. Photography by Alessandra Davison.  

London needs to create 133,000 more primary and secondary school places by 2018[1].

In its report published on Tuesday, London learners, London lives[2], the London Assembly Education Panel, which I Chair, adds that the crisis will soon be acutely felt in the secondary school sector as each year thousands of additional 11 year olds look to secure places.  While London has been in the vanguard for the creation of new free schools, few of these are secondary schools.

The panel meet today [18 September 2014] to receive an update on school places provision and the outlook for the projected shortfall over the long term.

The following guests will give evidence:

  • Frankie Sulke, Executive Director for Children and Young People, London Borough of Lewisham; and
  • Helen Jenner, Corporate Director of Children’s Services, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

In the second session members will discuss the impact of changes coming from the Children’s Act 2014 on the provision of support to children and young people with complex needs.

One in every five pupils has a special educational need and in London around 4 per cent of children have a Statement of Special Educational Need. There are growing numbers of children with autistic spectrum disorder which often requires specialist support.

Funding for pupils with complex needs is also changing.

The following guests will give insights:

  • Tara Flood, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for Inclusive Education;
  • Gary Redhead, Assistant Director – Schools, Planning and Resources, LB Ealing;
  • Holly Morgan-Smith, Project Manager – SEND Reforms, LB Ealing;
  • Gillian Bennell, Head of Special Services Planning, LB Wandsworth;
  • Lysanne Wilson, Director of Operations, YoungMinds;
  • A representative from Preparing for Adulthood.

Notes for Editors:

  1. Do the Maths – London’s school places challenge” – London Councils, July 2014.
  2. London Learners London Lives” 
  3. Full agenda papers
  4. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.