A year in education: Councillor Suzy Horton reflects on 2023

Councillor Suzy Horton looks back on 2023 in education

As the year draws to a close, we look back on the education landscape in Portsmouth with Councillor Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council.

Suzy shares her top moments from 2023, how schools are overcoming challenges, as well as advice for anyone considering a career in the classroom.

What are your favourite moments from 2023?

It's been a busy year with so many special moments to choose from. Here are my top five moments (in no particular order).

  1. Teach Portsmouth Awards - It was such a wonderful event that focused on the positive things in education. We introduced brand new award categories for early years practitioners and school governors to showcase their achievements for the first time.
  2. Arundel Court Inclusion Centre opening - Portsmouth City Council used its own in-house architects to create a high-quality learning environment for children with additional needs. It was great to visit while it was being built. I attended a special opening ceremony recently with the children who will be attending the school.
  3. Early years SENCO accreditation event - It was lovely to hear the personal development stories of SENCOs and how much they have learned whilst helping others learn.
  4. Solent Shanty Sing at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - This event was organised by the Music Hub which saw hundreds of children sing sea songs together. I'm a bit of a folk music fan - so this was a real treat!
  5. The Portsmouth Education Partnership had its first conference on reading, which was well attended and had some great speakers and breakout sessions.

Can you talk about the challenges schools have faced this year, and how have they adapted to overcome these?

It feels as if the last few years have been relentless; first with COVID and then the cost-of-living crisis. We all know how much these things have affected many of our families, with a disruption to routine and good habits.

As a result of these challenges, schools are dealing with attendance, behaviour and mental health issues in our families, caused by these events.

Portsmouth's schools have risen to the challenge with great examples of schools supporting families and working with the council and other partners.

This year, Teach Portsmouth once again hosted a series of events to support those considering careers in the classroom. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a teacher or teaching assistant?

These events have been such a pleasure to attend. Teach Portsmouth are doing a great job at getting the word out there and I know that the taster sessions have been a great development.

I have always said that being a teacher was the toughest job I have ever done (even more than being a politician!), but the most rewarding job I have ever done. To make a lasting, positive impact on a child that will improve their life opportunities is a great privilege.

My advice to anyone considering either role would be to go and visit a school and dip your toe in the water. Speak to people who are new into the job - they will be in the best position to say it how it is!

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

I am looking forward to seeing how many of our initiatives come to fruition in the next year.

We are part of the priority education investment area work with every school involved in this. I'm also looking forward to further work on inclusion alongside developing our new family hubs and the establishment of a youth hub near to the Civic Offices.

And of course, I am also looking forward to continuing my tour of schools in Portsmouth and being invited to concerts and other events!

Do you have a special message for Portsmouth's teachers, support teams and leaders?

As always, I want to thank them for all their dedication, hard work, resilience, and passion. These are very tough times for schools, both financially and culturally, as schools increasingly have a wider role in family support.

I just hope that they acknowledge and celebrate the difference that they make in their communities.

Share your thanks with a school superhero!

Tell us who has made a real difference to your family's life by Wednesday 14 February 2024 and we'll share a special thank you message with them.

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