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Crawley pupil joins other youths in taking over West Sussex County Council for the day

Youth Cabinet members joined senior councillors on Friday 23 November to take a peek behind the scenes of West Sussex County Council to see how it works and to also join in.

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Josh, Harley and Louise Goldsmith

Youth Cabinet members range in ages from 11-18 and are elected by their peers to represent all areas of West Sussex (likely to be where they live) and meet up once or twice a month.

Eight young members took the chance to shadow senior cabinet members, county council staff and an MP as part of the national Takeover Challenge day, which saw hundreds of young people step into the shoes of a wide range of adult jobs.

The day before, Tom Van Den Berg, 16, one of the two Youth Cabinet members for Bognor Regis and Felpham, and Heather Smith, 13, (Southbourne), met up with Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, and Pieter Montyn, Member for The Witterings. They joined a Performance and Finance Select Committee meeting and listened to some of the issues that were raised, including a budget update and key decisions taken in the Forward Plan.

Tom said:

“I was really thankful to have the opportunity to sit around the table. I have a passion for politics and hope for it to become more than just a hobby.”

George Bowron, 15, (Crawley) and Will Nyss, 15, (Lancing) spent the day with Paul Marshall, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, finding out about his role.

Mr Marshall said:

“It was a pleasure to have George and Will join me for the day and together we learned about the crucial roles social workers carry out for young people and their families in West Sussex. It’s brilliant to see young people interested and engaging in politics in this way.”

Harley Collins, 14, (Chichester and West Arun), spent the morning with Deborah Urquhart, Cabinet Member for Environment, at Westhampnett Solar Farm and the Drayton depot with West Sussex Highways staff.

Harley said:

“Learning about how West Sussex County Council’s highways department manages its tasks with its ground teams was fascinating. I also learnt renewable energy is the future and learning about solar panels was amazing!”

Harley then spent the rest of the day with the communications team drafting an article for Connections, the local residents’ magazine and also learnt about data handling from the Insight team.

Josh Patterson, 14, the other MYC for Bognor and Felpham, was with the communications team for the day. He learnt how to use software to take over the various West Sussex Your Space social media platforms for young people, and posted pictures of what was going on during the day. He also learnt how to write a press release.

Josh said:

“I was really grateful to have the opportunity to come and see how communications work and to write my own press release. It was really fun.”

Jeremy Hunt, Tom Van Den Berg and Pieter Montyn

Harley and Josh ended their day by meeting Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council and asked her many questions about her job.

Louise Goldsmith said:

“I was delighted to have Josh and Harley spend part of the day with me and my team for an ‘ask the leader’ session. We spoke about various topics from school funding to youth consultations and a bit about Brexit and I was really impressed with both of them.”

Spencer Hildrew, 15, (Southbourne) and Dylan Collier, 16, (Chichester) also spent the day shadowing Gillian Keegan, Member of Parliament for Chichester, in London.

Mrs Keegan said:

“It was a great pleasure to welcome Spencer and Dylan from the West Sussex Youth Cabinet to the House of Commons. We are in the midst of the Brexit negotiations and it is an interesting time to be in politics and I’m hoping Spencer and Dylan enjoyed their day.

“We have had many young people from across the Chichester District join us for work experience and shadowing days and we always look forward to welcoming them.”

Find out more about the West Sussex Youth Cabinet: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/education-children-and-families/your-space/participate/youth-cabinet/

Education

‘Reckless’ National Education Union attacks West Sussex Council over schools reopening

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The National Education Union has spoken out saying they have been frustrated by the ‘reckless’ approach they say West Sussex County Council has taken towards the safety of its members on the matter of schools re-opening more widely.

Joint NEU West Sussex Branch Secretary Ann Seuret said:

“It is disappointing that the local authority has referred to a ‘phased re-opening’ because schools have been open throughout the lockdown, where our members have been working on the front line, providing a vital service for vulnerable children and those of key-workers whilst they protect us from this awful disease.”

They say that contrary to the views expressed by some politicians in the county, The National Education Union is consulting on a wider re-opening of schools and is using a detailed checklist endorsed by the other education unions, which follows the structure of the government’s own guidance, to do so. They add that every school needs to consult in good time to fulfil its statutory obligations, and many are only at the beginning of that process.

It has now been confirmed to the NEU that many schools in West Sussex will NOT open more widely on June 1st despite the council claiming that they will. This follows widespread concern from heads in West Sussex wanting reassurances from government.

NEU Regional Officer, James Ellis said:

“The National Education Union wants children to return to school as soon as possible, but only when it is safe. Our five tests set out some reasonable criteria by which to measure this, and they have not been met. We still do not know the rate of infection (the R rate) in the county, or whether or not children are less likely than adults to pass on the infection. Schools are not able to keep children two metres apart, and this is acknowledged in the government guidance. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has concluded that there is no evidence that age affects the likelihood of being infected with Covid19, so we cannot understand why children are not required to social distance. Whilst testing has been increased nationally, our members are not confident that the ability yet exists across West Sussex to isolate cases and successfully contact, track, and trace them. This system just isn’t ready yet, and so we believe West Sussex County Council is acting too hastily. This stands in marked contrast to other councils who are taking a more cautious approach to only open more widely when the scientific data shows it is safe to do so. Despite this recklessness many West Sussex schools are sensibly deciding that 1st June is too soon.”

Primary schools in West Sussex which have already confirmed they will not yet open more widely on June 1st include:

  • all schools run by The University of Brighton Academies Trust: Lindfield, Blackthorns, Holmbush, Pound Hill, Desmond Anderson, and it’s secondary: Burgess Hill Academy
  • all schools run by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT): Broadfield Primary Academy, Hilltop Primary School, Portfield Primary Academy, Seal Primary Academy, Seymour Primary School, Tangmere Primary Academy, The Bewbush Academy, The Mill Primary Academy, The Oaks Primary School,  and it’s secondaries: Chichester High School,  Thomas Bennett Community College and The Academy, Selsey,
  • Southgate Primary School


In addition, Headteachers at Crawley Secondary Schools: Ifield Community College, Holy Trinity School, St Wilfrid’s, Oriel High School Hazelwick and The Gatwick School
– have taken the unusual step of issuing a joint statement.

In it they said:

“As a group of secondary Headteachers of the schools in Crawley we have unanimously agreed that no students will be in school (other than those for childcare) any earlier than 15th June… We have come to this position in order to act responsibly for the welfare of the school and local community.”

NEU West Sussex Joint Branch Secretary and Health and Safety Officer, Anne Barker said:

“For the National Education Union it is not about an arbitrary date, but uppermost in our considerations is the safety of our members, the children in their care, and their families. The statutory obligations of employers to meaningfully consult on risk assessments is clear.

This means there has to be enough time to explain the issues to our members, time for them to consider and make informed responses, and time for employers to take into account their response before making a final decision.

We are ready to do that on the basis of our five tests and our checklist, but schools must let go of this arbitrary June 1st date. Mr Ellis added, “If schools do push ahead to open more widely on June 1st we will advise members that we do not believe it is safe for them to attend work and that we are not satisfied that the employer has met their obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act. Any member subjected to a detriment as a consequence of not attending work will be vigorously defended by our union.”

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