Longsight – A Changing Community
Located just under three miles from the city centre of the United Kingdom’s second largest city, Manchester, is the bustling ward of Longsight. With a population of nearly 16,000 citizens squeezed into a small area, the wards population density is over twice that of Manchester City as a whole.
The ward was once home to a wealthy middle class, but in recent years, it has seen its status among the wealthy decline significantly behind a barrage of gang related violent crime. In October alone, over 1,100 crimes were reported to the wards police force. Guns, drugs and gangs have turned the once safe streets into a perilous environment for the innocent bystanders simply trying to get on with their lives, but lawmakers are making a consistent effort to crack down on gun crimes.
Since 2001, the ward has seen a significant rise in non-white residents. The ward’s population is now nearly three-quarters non-white and over fifty percent Muslim. Many of these new residents of Longsight have struggled to establish themselves in the workforce without proper job skills.
As the population changes and evolves in Longsight, a unique opportunity has been presented. The children of immigrants to Longsight have an opportunity to reverse their fortunes and future through education, but without a change in the educational system in the ward, there will be no visible improvement.
Emphasis on education can serve to prepare the youth of Longsight to enter the workforce as a fully functioning member of society, but there must be changes in the way education is conducted in Longsight. The current education system must be overhauled to reach a changing population. The children of immigrants bring a different educational background and culture to the classroom, and that must be considered.
Longsight By The Numbers
The numbers provided by the Manchester City Council do not paint a pretty picture of Longsight. The 2011 Census data showed that the median household income within the ward predominately fell within the 10,400 to 18,799 level, which is the lowest level. The low income levels put the children of families living at this low income level at risk. In most areas of the ward, over fifty percent of children under 16 live below the poverty line. These numbers go lockstep with the eleveated rate of unemployment in the ward. Longsight’s unemployment rate consistently exceeds the overall unemployment rate of Manchester as a whole.
Children who grow up below the poverty line often see their education suffer. Many times, their parents are adjusting to life in a new country with limited opportunities for career advancement. They simply do not have the necessary understanding of the need for education in their children’s life. Their children are placed at a disadvantage from birth and face an uphill battle to improve their fate in life.
The children of Longsight are lagging slightly behind their counterparts throughout the city of Manchester, but the numbers are not as depressing as one would expect. While the children of Longsight do typically receive lower results in their Key Stage 2 tests, their attendance numbers are similar or better than the overall average in Manchester.
This is a promising sign. The consistent attendance of Longsight youth at school show that there is an emphasis placed on education within the ward. Attendance was notably higher in secondary school within Longsight. Additionally, persistent abscence from school was over 50% lower at both the primary and secondary school levels. Successfully completing primary and secondary education is the first step to a university education. It appears Longsight students are making the effort to pass through this checkpoint on their way to a better future.
While gang related crime was once a significant problem within Longsight, the trend is toward a safter neighbourhood. There has been a gradual decline in drug related offenses in the past year. A look at the policing priorities of the ward’s police department reveals that one of the most pressing areas of concern to the local authorities is groups of young people congregating in the streets and causing various annoyances. These are preventable annoyances. These young people must be kept off the street and given productive ways to spend their time. There are many opportunities available to them that do not involve loitering and committing petty crimes. These are the types of behaviours which seem innocent enough at a young age that can lead a young person down an undesireable path.
What the Data Tells Us
By reviewing the data provided by the Manchester City Council, it is clear that there is a great deal of economic hardship in the Longsight area which can affect the educational prospects of its children. It is difficult for children to exercise any control over many of the circumstances that are putting them at risk. They are, unfortunately at the mercy of their parents and other adults in their life. There are, however, many promising signs within the educational data. It is promising to note that attendance at the secondary level is higher in Longsight than across the entire city of Manchester. The lack of persistent absences is also promising. This shows that the parents are actively involved in their children’s attendance at school. While the children may not achieve at as high a rate as their peers throughout Manchester, what counts is their consistent attendance in school. Many of these children faced a difficult start to their educational career, coming from a home where their own parents did not possess all of the skills required to begin their education before they ever set foot in a classroom for the first time. Through careful support and continual development, the children of Longsight can overcome the factors in their environment which could potentially have held them back.
It is clear that graduates do not face the same hurdles in life as those who have not graduated. Nongraduates face higher unemployment rates across all ages and demographics. Perhaps more critical, nongraduates face the highest unemployment rate during their twenties. This is a critical time in a young person’s life, but as more and more students receive a university education, the jobs available to young nongraduates continue to decrease. It is during these years that an unemployed young person faces the highest risk of becoming involved in criminal activity, especially in an area like Longsight where there is much seemingly easy money to be made in gangs or drugs.
All efforts must be made to focus the students of Longsight on their future. As a youth, it is extremely difficult to keep an eye on the future. They will require guidance; both gentle and firm, to keep their eyes focused on what the future holds. Different career paths and opportunities must be discussed with them, as many may be unaware of all the paths and opportunities an education can provide. Goals should be set as an effective way of maintaining focus, but also measuring achievement. Any programmes, which will be considered and undertaken within the Longsight ward, must also consider and involve the parents of the students. These parents must understand the risks their children face without an education. They must also encourage and advocate for their children’s future.
We at Redbrick Academy have created an afterschool childcare programme which was created with the child of Longsight and the surrounding environment. Our programme targets children between the critical ages of 5 and 15. These are the formative years where children require as much care and attention possible.
We believe creating a productive after school environment will serve to keep the children of our neighbourhood off the streets when school lets out for the day and provide them with the attention their parents may not be able to give. We realise that transportation to and from school to our facilities may pose a problem to parents without access to a car or who are busy with work. Keeping this in mind, we have devised a pickup schedule for each of our students. Parents’ worries will be eased, as we collect their children and transport them safely every day.
At Redbrick Academy, the children will be given a healthy snack, a necessity for their growing bodies! Then, they will be able to take advantage of all our facility has to offer. We have an extensive recreation room in which the children will take part in organised activities. They will also be free to use our computers and smart boards or even relax with one of the many books in our library. We believe it is key to allow the children to access and learn computer skills with us, as many may not have access to a computer at home. In today’s increasingly computer dependent world, having computer skills is almost a requirement for a good job.
Our staff will also work closely with the children to complete their homework. We realise many busy working parents may not have time or the ability to help their children with their homework. The support we provide will allow our students to complete their assignments and feel confident that they have done so to the best of their abilities.
We will also work closely with the children to develop their own Personal Development Plan. It is important to help young people set goals for themselves. This also provides an opportunity for positive reinforcement as the children work through stepping-stones on the way to their goals.
Lastly, we have even taken the cultural backgrounds of many of our students in mind. We realise that many of our students come from a Muslim background and practise Islam. Our Director, Nu’maan Mahmood is actviely involved as an advocate for the faith, and realises the importance of religion to many of our customers. We believe that religion is a solid foundation to build one’s morals and values upon and we will work closely with our students to help learn about and develop their faith. We teach our students about their faith and culture, but do so in a way that is fun and relatable.
The staff members of Redbrick Academy are passionate about the development of the youth of our neighbourhood. We believe we can have a positive impact on the lives of many young students in Longsight. We want to, and are prepared to do whatever it takes to help bring a better life to the children of the neighbourhood we call home.
To find out more or to register your child(ren) click here.