IF Yorkshire is to maximise its future potential, the region needs a bespoke Industrial Strategy which responds to the justified concerns of business leaders over skills. Yet, contrary to perception, this task does not begin in the workplace – or the region’s schools which no longer languish at the foot of national league tables thanks to the hard work of teachers and pupils.
It actually begins in the home, a point forcefully made by Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, after it emerged that more than a quarter of children lack rudimentary literacy skills when they start at primary school. Like his Rotherham-born predecessor Justine Greening who did so much to advance the social mobility agenda, the Minister makes the link between attainment and opportunity while effectively endorsing The Yorkshire Post’s long-held view that pupils are more likely to succeed academically – and in their chosen careers – if they grasp literacy and numeracy from an early stage.
Yet, while most parents do take their responsibilities extremely seriously, the challenge is reaching out to the significant minority, often concentrated in the more deprived areas, who do not because of ignorance, laziness or the simple fact that they, too, struggled, at school. Before Mr Hinds hosts a major summit, he does, however, have some homework of his own. Why is he convinced that the use of technology is the way forward when many experts say ‘screen time’ for young children should be limited? And does this intervention suggest that the Government should not have scaled back the Sure Start programme which was pioneered by Sheffield’s David Blunkett two decades ago? His response to both issues will be fundamental to the future education and employment prospects of young people growing up in Yorkshire and making sure they are all, regardless of background, afforded the very best start in life.