Discussing the new Mayor of West Yorkshire’s education priorities

By 6 May, the people of West Yorkshire will have cast their votes for the district’s first ever elected mayor. 

Along with budgets for policing and public transport, the soon-to-be-elected mayor will have an annual £63 million to spend on adult education, skills and training.

BBC Radio Leeds reporter, Aisha Iqbal, spoke to four Leeds Sixth Form College Politics A level students about their thoughts on where the mayor should focus their energy.

Budget priorities

The students, Madeline Philliskirk, Alex Shimbles, Connie Chappel and Owen Rutherford, gave their opinions on how best the mayor’s budget should be spent.

Madeline: “I think it’s important to support more adult learners getting back into education, giving them the option to study in a classroom setting or from home. The mayor could help promote the message ‘it’s never too late to learn’ by encouraging more adults to pursue a career in something they’re passionate about which provides clear routes to university, such as an Access to Higher Education course.”

Alex: “Students of all ages would benefit from more investment in practical skills. Extra curricular sessions which cover topics such as presenting, job searching, doing a successful interview and communication skills will help learners prepare for higher education, apprenticeships or jobs.”

Connie: “The mayor’s budget should be dedicated to developing a nationwide platform, similar to UCAS, where learners have access to a range of Level 2 to Level 6 apprenticeship opportunities. This would hopefully benefit adult learners by providing an accessible platform where they can discover exciting roles to develop their skills.”

Owen: “It’s important for the mayor to provide more opportunities for people of all ages to come to college. At Leeds Sixth Form College, it’s fantastic to see many adult learners engaging in our classes and this should be widely encouraged. 

“Many mature learners may have left school at a young age, so it’s key to demonstrate that adults can come back to college at any time and still progress to university or upskill for a new job role.”

Alternative routes

During the session, the learners discussed practical actions that needed to be considered for students taking alternative educational paths.

Connie: “It would be useful for students to be informed about the range of opportunities available after their GCSEs. There’s a lot of exciting options open to students including A levels, apprenticeships and vocational courses, giving academic and practical students the chance to study something that interests them.”

Alex: “I have a real passion for performing arts, and I’d love to see more viable routes into the creative arts sector. Although the industry has struggled during the pandemic, we should continue to encourage students to pursue creative subjects, including more options for students beyond university and more money for apprenticeships.” 

Madeline: “When I first finished my GCSEs, I pursued an alternative route by going to an agricultural college which involved many on-the-job placements. This provided me with fantastic work experience. 

“However, it took me a long time to research and find out about this alternative route as it wasn’t readily available to me in school. Apart from A levels and university, I feel the access routes explained to me after Year 11 were very sparse, highlighting the need for the mayor to support more diverse options at 14-16 years.”

Read more about the West Yorkshire mayoral election candidates here