Unity Schools Partnership


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I deliberately write a lot about partnerships.

This can be a collaboration between staff and students, schools and parents or partnering with our local communities.

The Unity Schools Partnership promotes close working within our geographical hubs and between our primary, secondary and special schools, as well as other neighbouring schools.

We are very proud of that fact.

But we are proud too to work in partnership with colleagues in education much wider than this.

So it was heartening to see 10 schools and colleges from in and around Bury St Edmunds form an alliance to raise awareness of the issue of county lines and to start looking at solutions to address this problem.

This week, we held a meeting for parents of each of the schools and colleges – West Suffolk College, Abbeygate Sixth Form, Sybil Andrews Academy, The Albany Centre, County Upper, Culford School, King Edward VI School, Priory School, Thurston Community College and St Benedict’s Catholic School.

We all want to work together to ensure our education around county lines is consistent – a strategy that has been welcomed by police who are doing so much to tackle the problem head-on.

The fact that the meeting, held at and superbly organised by West Suffolk College, attracted hundreds of parents, and we held a second meeting straight after, shows the strength of concern.

It gave us a great chance to start talking about the problem, raise awareness of some of the tell-tale signs and also give a platform to local police to inform the audience about what they are doing.

As we all know, county lines is an issue for the country as a whole, including Suffolk and including the Bury St Edmunds area.

Across the secondary schools, we have held information sessions for students, shown awareness videos and started talking to them about this problem.

This will be ongoing.

Students have been receptive about talking about the issue and I am sure they have gone away with more knowledge of the potential pitfalls.

As the police said during Monday night’s meeting, this conversation must continue across the dining room table.

All the schools would advise parents to talk to their children about county lines and also be suitably vigilant about their activities, where necessary.

We must also reassure parents across West Suffolk that the reality of their children being involved in county lines is minimal.

But that is why we must address it now.

It is about prevention rather than cure. By working in partnership, we have the best chance of tackling this problem head-on.

We will continue to work closely with parents, local authorities and other partners to come up with solutions and help protect our young people.