HOVEP is a unique partnership between the Welsh Government, local authorities, the further and higher education sectors in the Heads of the Valleys area. Its mission is to make the Heads of the Valleys a high skilled region for the 21st century. In Blaenau Gwent, (one of the two areas in HOVEP, the other being Merthyr Tydfil) this is a particularly significant goal. The closure of the steelworks and the loss of a considerable number of jobs has led to the creation of an area facing a significant number of challenges.
HOVEP will focus on every child benefiting from school, and work to ensure that they transition smoothly from primary to secondary sectors of education, with higher percentages of 16-19 students gaining from high level qualifications including English and Maths. Another fundamental aspect is to support higher numbers of 19 years olds progressing into further or higher education, whilst improving skills in the wider adult population.
What I so impressed with is the passion and dedication I have seen to work with the widest range of partners to support, challenge and add value through strengthening and deepening the impact of their current works. In this meeting representatives from almost every phase of education were there, as well as academics, local authority representatives and local employers. It will need this absolute combined commitment and determination to make a difference, including getting over some difficult issues. However, unlike some other areas, they have started and have some very clear plans, aspirations and ideas. This was not a 'sit and receive' session, but rather like the aims of the project, a 'roll your sleeves up and get involved' session where everyone had a role to play in identifying responses to some very searching topics..
I also find it encouraging that there is a significant role for academics in this project, but one with a very real understanding of the specific issues faced in this area. High quality comments giving guidance came from Emeritus Professor David Egan, Senior Policy Advisor to HOVEP and guest Speaker Professor Sir Deian Hopkin.
I just wish them all the best of luck - and am happy to be involved. I am sure I will write more from this project in the coming week and months, so... watch this space.