(selected news snippets from the last seven days)
Improved attainment levels in Suffolk schools
New figures published by the government this week show that the number of five to seven year olds in Suffolk achieving expected levels of attainment in reading, writing and maths has improved significantly this year. The figures are provisional, with final data released in January 2015. However, significant changes are not expected. The figures show: reading is up 17 places, from 78% reaching expected levels of attainment in 2013 to 81% this year; writing is up 14 places, from 68% reaching expected levels of attainment in 2013 to 71% this year; maths is up 3 places, from 78% reaching expected levels of attainment in 2013 to 80% this year, and; Year 2 phonics is up 41 places, from 84% reaching expected levels of attainment 2013 to 89% this year. This forecasted boost in results and subsequent move up the education league tables for Suffolk is excellent news and a testament to the hard work and dedication of teachers, heads, governors, parents and, most importantly, students.
UK’s first Youth Employment Centre opening soon
Work has begun on the UK’s first ever dedicated youth employment centre, at Fraser House in Ipswich. In October 2013, Ipswich was unveiled as the location of the MyGo centre which will open in November 2014. The centre will pioneer a new approach to helping young people get into work. Led by businesses, local councils, New Anglia LEP and Jobcentre Plus, this programme will help achieve the goal of halving youth unemployment in the greater Ipswich area over the next two years. The MyGo centre will offer all 16-24 year olds in Ipswich and the surrounding area free training, career and employment support. The project is being funded by money secured via the Greater Ipswich City Deal. EOS Works Ltd, a training and welfare company, has recently been appointed by SCC to operate the MyGo Centre. Outreach services will also be provided from mid-2015 across greater Ipswich, including those living in Babergh, Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal. The centre will be staffed by Jobcentre Plus, EOS and Tomorrows People employees working together so that young people can access all the help they need in one place.
Campaign aims to stub out under-age smoking
As part of the “Don’t Get Me Started” campaign, Suffolk’s Trading Standards team are encouraging people to contact them to report premises they suspect are selling tobacco to under 18s. The campaign encourages tobacco retailers, parents, schools and others to play their part in ensuring underage young people cannot purchase or access tobacco. Trading Standards are sending letters to schools to share with teachers, parents, carers and governors, which include ‘reporting cards’ so that they have an easier way to report under-age tobacco sales in their area. Members of the Youth Parliament are also supporting the campaign via social media and a ‘Thunderclap’ (an on-line campaigning site) will be launched nationally, thanks to SCC’s trading standards team. People are being urged to sign up to “help trading standards stub out tobacco sales to under 18s” on the Thunderclap site to be shared via their Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr page. To join the thunderclap, which goes live on 29 October, go to https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/16349-stub-it-out#StubItOut.
Have your say: Suffolk children’s centre consultation deadline approaches
Suffolk residents are being urged to give their views on our children’s centre consultation, which will end on 16 October. So far more than 700 people have had their say as part of a consultation. SCC continues to be fully committed to delivering high-quality services to families across Suffolk. To achieve this, the council has to make sure that services are accessible to different communities as well as making the most efficient use of their buildings. As Gordon Jones, SCC’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Like many people up and down the county, we strongly value the good work carried out by our children’s centres and the services they provide. However, we believe that more can be done to ensure that these services are as effective as they can be and reaching all those who would benefit. We want the precious resources we direct towards early years care to be focused as much as possible on the services that will make a difference, and not on buildings. As part of the wider consultation, we continue to work with MP Frank Field who is lending his expertise as a much-respected figure in the field of early years care.” Decisions on the proposals will be made in December 2014 with any approved changes being implemented from April 2015. For more information and to find out how to give your views visit the consultation webpage.
Helping to reduce the cost of contacting the council
People wanting to contact SCC by telephone will, from this week, need to use a different number and could save money. The council is changing all of its telephone numbers that are prefixed 0845 to 0345. The remaining seven digits of the telephone numbers will remain exactly the same. All Freephone numbers starting 0800 will also remain unchanged. It includes the telephone numbers for people wanting to apply for a school place for their child, reporting a pothole or road defect and the Families Information Service. A call to a 0345 number costs no more than a geographical number (i.e. 01284, 01787 and 01473). SCC handles around 200,000 calls per year via 0845 numbers. Jenny Antill, SCC’s cabinet member for resource management, said: “I am committed to making it as cheap as possible for customers to contact us. Calls to 0345 numbers from landlines and mobiles are included in free call packages. Therefore, for all those customers calling the council on these numbers, it will mean that they do not incur any additional costs. 0845 numbers can be used to generate income – which the county council has never chosen to do. Some customers were, however, concerned by this even being an option. We have listened to these concerns and, as a result, we are making the change.
Better Procurement Workshop
Over 60% of all the money spent by SCC is on contracts for goods and services. This is because the council have both outsourced many of our services, which are now being delivered by third parties, or because we have spun off activities such as the libraries and property activities into independent, wholly-owned, bodies. On 1st October a joint seminar was held with Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to see how we can work together to use the procurement process not just to drive down costs, but also to ensure that some of the £470m spend stays in Suffolk and supports not just the largest contractors but also smaller companies. Under EU procurement rules this is challenging, but recent changes make it easier to work towards fulfilling these aims.