The recently elected mayor of Bristol explains the key role he hopes FE can play in his plans to drive down inequality through better co-ordinated education and training

Earlier this month, Bristol took to an international stage to showcase how the city became England’s first learning city, joining a network of other places across the globe.

The recent Pascal conference in Glasgow brought together cities from as far away as China and Pakistan to discuss the value of working in partnership to improve learning opportunities – something that is absolutely essential to the success of a place and its people.

Bristol is an affluent city with a reputation as a good place to live, but it’s a city of two halves, and prosperity is not shared by all.

Improving social mobility is one of the core issues that we can overcome through being a learning city, and the FE sector has a vital role to play with making this a reality.

Improving social mobility is one of the core issues that we can overcome through being a learning city, and the FE sector has a vital role to play with making this a reality

This is not a problem that the council or any one organisation can solve on its own.

With more young people under the age of 16 than of pensionable age in Bristol, we need to make changes now for future generations.

Being a learning city shows, however, that things are changing and our college, City of Bristol, has been involved from the start.

Senior leaders, including the new principal, have shown great enthusiasm for the approach and embraced the chance to work in partnership to develop new initiatives which inspire young people.

The idea of working together to improve outcomes is not a new one, but in an increasingly fragmented landscape for learning and skills, the notion of joining together behind a shared vision is an essential one.

Future learning activity will be
governed by a partnership board, made up of city leaders from a cross section of organisations including City of Bristol College, both of our universities, primary and secondary heads associations, as well as businesses and the council.

This ensures a genuine partnership approach as all key decisions affecting education and skills in Bristol come to this board.

The task ahead is huge and work has already begun by bringing the right people together to focus on education, lifelong learning and skills.

Influential individuals are working in targeted groups to tackle some of the core issues Bristol faces – including how to get people into work.

Over the coming year, I am looking forward to working with our city partners and our college to deliver an experience of work for all young people in Bristol and develop and implement a city wide CV.

These are both projects that the college’s senior management are helping to shape, ensuring the skills young people gain are the ones employers need.

Tackling the education achievement gap is also being addressed by a separate group, with a core goal of improving results for young people in school and FE.

With a growing population of nearly half a million, the challenges facing Bristol are the same as those playing out in many major cities in the UK.

We are not unique in that respect, but having grown up locally the importance of levelling the playing field through education is abundantly clear to me.

Becoming a Learning City is one way to improve life for citizens. We will pay a high social, economic and moral cost if we don’t act.