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Posts Tagged ‘pledges’

Creating the Next Generation of Coders

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Coded on a BBC Micro and released in 1984, space trading simulator “Elite” went on to sell over a million copies and influences the genre to this day.

If you went to school in the 1980s you’ll almost certainly have run into the BBC Micro at some point. Launched in 1982 and designed with an emphasis on education, this unassuming grey box became the gateway for an entire generation of young people to learn about coding, computing and software development. British technology luminaries such as David Braben (who used the BBC Micro to develop “Elite”, one of the most influential and best-selling video games of all time) and David Darling (founder of Warwickshire-based games development company Codemasters) owe their careers to a decision 30 years ago to not just teach young people how to use new technologies, but to provide the resources for them to apply their own creativity as well.

Fast forward to 2017, and we have access to technology whose power and scope is beyond anything that could have been imagined by those 1980s schoolchildren. Now more than ever, it is important to make sure our children have a solid understanding in how these technologies work. We don’t expect them to all become technology and computer entrepreneurs, but we don’t expect everyone who learns English to become a writer or everyone who learns Maths to become a mathematician either. We teach reading, writing and maths because they are essential to understanding the world in which we live. If it isn’t already, knowing how technology works will soon be as important to get on in life as those other basic skills.

With that in mind, the BBC has updated the venerable old Micro for the 21st century. The BBC Micro Bit, inspired by similar devices such as Raspberry Pi, is a far smaller (about half the size of a credit card) but also far more powerful device than its predecessor. Simple programming tasks, like setting its LEDs to light up in a certain pattern, can be done using just the Micro Bit itself. However, it can also be connected up via Bluetooth or USB to other Micro Bits or electronic devices to create and use more complicated programs. The dedicated www.microbit.org website also contains enough software and tools so that the Micro Bit’s possibilities are limited only by the imagination of its user.

The Micro Bit has already made its way to our country’s schools, but here in Tameside we want to go above and beyond in the name of teaching our children about technology. Our commitment was enshrined at the start of last year in our “Every Child a Coder” 16 for 2016 Pledge, and after the success of our Tameside Hack in the summer we’re in the process of finalising our plans to hold a second Hackathon over the February half-term. We’re also putting on free starter sessions for young people in Years 6, 7 and 8 at Hyde Library to help them find their way around the BBC Micro Bit and program some great projects. The first session took place this Monday, but spaces are still available at the time of writing for the second session on the 30th January. The event is completely free and you can book your place on the dedicated webpage here.

I’ve always had the view that education is not just a means to get a job and build a future, although those are undoubtedly important. It is a valuable thing in and of itself. Maybe one of the children at our Hackathon or Micro Bit sessions will go on to create the next great video game or computer program in 20 or so years, but I won’t consider our work a failure if that doesn’t happen. If we can open our young people’s minds to the possibilities and opportunities that technology can offer them to understand not just the world, but themselves, then that is an excellent return on investment in my book.

Taking Local Action on Climate Change

Friday, May 20th, 2016


Last week a piece of news appeared that was almost certainly missed by most people, but which may carry the gravest of implications for all our futures. Global carbon dioxide concentrations are poised to hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for both the first and last time. The last time as the Earth’s natural weather cycles mean that, once the 400 ppm milestone is breached, carbon dioxide concentrations will never fall below that level again. Put simply, we have now hit the point where, even if by some miracle we stopped putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere tomorrow, we still will not be able to escape the consequences our past emissions will wreak upon our planet.

You might be wondering why I’m writing about this on a council blog. You might be saying that surely this is too big an issue for us, and it’s not like we can do a lot about it anyway? I have to say that I disagree. We all share this planet. Acting on climate change is all our responsibilities, and only through collective action can we hope to be successful. Local government can also play a big role in improving the environment and curbing greenhouse gas emissions in their own areas.

Part of that is acknowledging what we can all do better. That’s what we’ve done at the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. Last month the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), an independent global non-profit set up to protect people’s retirement savings from the risks posed by climate change, gave us an “A” for the leadership we have shown in managing climate risk in our investments. Not only is that a great result in itself, it’s also an improvement of over 100 places from this time last year. We’ve always prided ourselves on looking beyond the bottom line when it comes to social responsibility, and I’m delighted that our work has been recognised.

We’ve also committed ourselves to improving Tameside’s environment through several of our 16 pledges for 2016. We intend on build upon last year’s success at improving recycling rates by placing public recycling bins on all council offices and town centres. Our LED lighting program is continuing apace, improving our street lights while cutting both our running costs and our carbon footprint. We’re planting at least 2016 trees to support greater biodiversity, improve our street scene and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We’ll get Tameside growing its own food in gardens, windows boxes, community spaces and allotments. When it is completed, our new Joint Service Centre will be over £1.5 million a year cheaper to run, much of this coming from better energy efficiency. All of these are examples of how we are doing our bit to slow the march of climate change while at the same time improving the quality of life of our residents.

We do not have time to waste. Last month was the hottest April on record globally – and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records. The World Bank tells us that by 2050 climate change could endanger 1.3 billion people across the world and cost £158 trillion, double the total output of the global economy. This is not scaremongering; this is hard data and figures. We need to find a better, more sustainable way, and Tameside stands ready to do its part.

Tameside Pledges #16for16

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

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Our 15 pledges for 2015 outlined what I wanted to achieve that year to make a real difference in Tameside. Covering a range of areas from fair credit, to improving the borough’s environment and supporting jobs and enterprise, our 15 for 15 delivered a comprehensive programme of improvement in a way that was transparent and easily understandable to anybody that wanted to measure our progress.

Well, I’ve always been a believer in the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That’s why at Full Council I unveiled a second set of pledges, 16 more for 2016. Together they will form an ambitious and wide-ranging program of work that will produce real results for our residents and businesses.

We’ll follow the example of Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden by naming new streets built in Tameside after local men and women who have lost their lives in service.

We’ll improve our roads and streets while slashing our carbon footprint by investing a further £1 million to fill in potholes and continuing our roll-out of super-efficient LED lights.

We’ll work with our residents to tackle over 160 grot spots across the borough, ridding our communities of fly-tipping, graffiti and littering. For those who want to recycle while they’re out and about we’ll make it easier by installing recycling bins in all of our town centres and council offices.

We’ll do our bit for the environment by encouraging our communities to grow their own food. We also pledge to plant a minimum of 2016 trees, improving the look of Tameside’s streets and open spaces, offsetting our carbon emissions and fostering greater biodiversity.

We’ll ensure that the council continues to support Tameside’s businesses to the best of its ability by purchasing services and goods from local providers wherever possible.

We’ll make sure that our children have the best start in life by giving them the skills they need to handle the challenges of the information age through the creation of coding clubs in all of Tameside’s primary schools. When they get older we’ll help them create good saving habits by opening a credit union account with £10 deposited for every 11 year old starting high school in September.

And we’ll help all of Tameside get connected by rolling out free WiFi across all of our town centres and offering workshops and classes on computer skills for those who want to get online but lack the ability or confidence to do so.

These new pledges show how, even in a time of austerity, we can still work together to produce results in what really matters, making a real difference to our local economy and the lives of our residents. As the year goes on my colleagues and I will deliver frequent updates on this blog, through social and traditional media and elsewhere on how we are progressing.

You’ve told us what your priorities for Tameside are. These pledges are our promise to deliver on them. The hard work begins now.

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