Ian Austin

Independent for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 24 July

We need radical solutions to bring better schools, better skills and better jobs to Dudley.


I recently stood up in the House of Commons to urge MPs of all parties to commit to long-term targets and new ideas to improve the quality of education in this country.

For a long time I have been saying that we need to make education and skills should be our number one priority. It's the only way well attract the new investment and new industries on which our prosperity will depend in the future. That's why I'm campaigning for better schools, better skills and better jobs

In my speech, I highlighted the fantastic success of the likes of Ellowes Hall, which has seen a tremendous improvement in standards. Other schools in Dudley are improving too but international rankings currently put Britain behind the likes of Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic on basic skills.

In Dudley, long-term youth unemployment is twice the national average. Germany has three times as many apprentices as the UK. Across the country the number of young apprentices has fallen. We need radical solutions to deal with these disappointing trends.

This includes setting aside Government funds to subsidise the cost of sending the brightest state school pupils to high-performing private schools.

Another way of making sure Dudley has the skills new industries need is introducing high quality technical qualifications. This is why Dudley Advance, the new manufacturing and technology centre bring opened by Dudley college, is so important

I'm calling on the government to provide apprenticeships as part of all their public spending programmes and to introduce new Technical Degrees. Technical Degrees would be a gold standard vocational qualification for high-level skills that would allow students to learn on the job as an apprentice alongside university, allowing them to earn a wage while studying.

Alongside a new Technical Baccalaureate for 16-19 year olds, this would provide a clear path for those wishing to specialise in the vocational skills our economy needs.


Donations have rolled in from around the world since we announced our Bert Bissell Memorial Walk a couple of weeks ago.

On 6th August I will be climbing Ben Nevis together with the Mayor’s Consort Councillor Adam Aston, the Deputy Mayor Councillor Steve Waltho and Armed Forces Champion Councillor Dave Tyler in memory of Dudley hero Bert Bissell’s work as a mountaineer, peace campaigner and charity fundraiser.

It’s the longest walk I’ve ever tried, so I have been fitting in training around my local and Parliamentary duties. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

In addition to generous donations from many people living locally, we have also heard from relatives of Bert’s now living in Australia and from MPs in Scotland who are keen to restore links between Dudley and Fort William near Ben Nevis that Bert originally helped establish.

Half of the funds we raise will go to the Mayor’s charities Action Heart and Guide Dogs, with the remainder split equally between the Children’s Unit at Russells Hall, the Royal British Legion, and Black Country Fast Aid to support local ambulances.

If you would like to support these great causes, you can do so at www.bertbissellmemorialwalk.co.uk


Anyone who was brought up in Dudley like I was will have been celebrating our first ever official Black Country Day.

Thousands of people across the region got together to mark the occasion: commemorating local achievements, celebrating its traditions and proudly flying the new flag designed by school girl Gracie Sheppard over Dudley Castle.

I’ve always said Dudley has great potential for tourism, so it was great to see attractions such as the Black Country Living Museum playing host to some of these events. Stone Street Square looked fantastic in red, white and black, as hundreds flocked to market stalls and sideshows.

Initially just one event was planned, but because of the interest from the community interest, dozens of events took place across the whole area, pulling in huge crowds and local celebrities. Hundreds more people threw their own events. I’m delighted that these celebrations will be continued in future years.

Black Country Day’s success says everything about the friendliness and community spirit of our local area. It shows what we can achieve when we all come together as a community, and I have never been more proud to be from the Black Country.

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