West London Zone attends the Labour Party Conference The WLZ team recently attended the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, where we engaged with a range of Labour politicians, policy influencers and stakeholders from across the business community and third sector The purpose of our attendance was to showcase our work in West London, outline our impact and illustrate how the lessons we have learnt from our model can feed into wider system change It was encouraging that one of the main areas of consensus was the need for a whole-child, whole system approach for support which aligns closely with our programme. Crucially there was also an appetite to better connect schools, children and families with wider assets across the community, which echoes a key element of our Link Work model Showcasing the West London Zone model At the recent Labour conference, our CEO, Louisa Mitchell, spoke on a panel event hosted by Onward UK alongside the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and representatives from the Sutton Trust and Ambition Institute. The panel discussed the role of schools, the importance of a whole-child approach and the need to harness the whole system around children and their families. Andy Burnham discussed the fragmented nature of the current system and the need for greater connectivity between schools and services across the local community. He was keen to stress that the issues faced by young people in his region are similar to the challenges Louisa described in West London and it was encouraging to hear him express his support for the West London Zone model. Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and WLZ CEO, Louisa Mitchell Louisa had an opportunity to speak with Andy Burnham at the end of the event and we are now in liaison with his office to arrange a follow-up meeting to discuss our shared priorities and opportunities for future joint working. As well as speaking on a panel, the WLZ team attended a series of events and receptions where we discussed our model and future strategy with a range of key stakeholders. This provided us with the opportunity to speak with the Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson’s team, Josh McAllister, Executive Chair of What Works Centre for Children & Families and Anne Longfield, Chair of the Commission on Young Lives, among others. In particular, it was fantastic to be cited in a fringe event by Dame Rachel de Souza, who described West London Zone as providing a bridge for schools into community assets and opportunities. Shadow Education Secretary, Bridget Phillipson and Chair Commission on Young Lives, Anne Longfield Gauging the political weather Our presence in Liverpool also provided an opportunity for us to gauge the priorities any future Labour government would have for education and wider children’s services. One of the main areas of consensus across events and speakers was the need for a whole-child, whole system approach for support. This is a fundamental element of our model, and it was positive to hear such widespread support for this approach. Crucially there was also an appetite to better connect schools, children and families with wider assets across the community. While there was a strong sense that schools are strong and effective bases from which to support children, there was a clear recognition that teachers can’t do it all and need further support to bridge children into the existing support services in their local area. This is a key element of the Link Work model and the conference was a valuable chance for the team to illustrate how this approach can work in practice, as well as the ways in which our Delivery team have unlocked opportunities for the children on our programme. It was encouraging to hear Bridget Phillipson speaking about the importance of both early intervention and the need to design solutions with the communities you are trying to support – both of which are core principles of the WLZ model. At the conference, Labour pledged a series of new policy initiatives, including the expansion of regional devolution to give greater powers and autonomy to Mayors, the creation of 90 youth hubs to bring together services for young people and a ‘maths revolution’ to improve standards in this core subject. Next steps The WLZ team are now working towards arranging follow-up meetings with the key stakeholders we engaged with at the Labour conference, including Andy Burnham and the Labour Education team. We look forward to sharing further updates on our public affairs work in the coming months as the country prepares for the upcoming General Election.