Peterborough education chief: Enjoy learning in better conditions

Jonathan Lewis, service director for Education for PCC and CCC EMN-180519-081013009
Jonathan Lewis, service director for Education for PCC and CCC EMN-180519-081013009
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September is one of the busiest times of year for a local authority and especially so for those working in the education department, writes Jonathan Lewis, Peterborough City Council director of education.

Of course for pupils, teachers and staff at our city’s schools, September marks the start of the new academic year, so I’d like to start off by welcoming everybody back!

A special mention too for children starting in reception class and those making the step up from primary to secondary schools.

Expanding secondary schools has been a key focus for the council in recent years as the population of Peterborough has grown rapidly.

Not only are more people moving to Peterborough but the city’s birth rate has remained high and young people born over the past decade or so are now making their way through the education system.

Since 2011 we’ve had to create an additional 2,850 secondary school places and although there have been some signs that growth is slowing, we have to continue to plan for future expansion.

One major project that has been completed in time for the start of the new school year has been the expansion of the Jack Hunt School in Netherton, which has enabled the school’s capacity to increase from 1,800 to 1,950 pupils.

A new two-storey extension has been built containing 11 state-of-the-art classrooms, a dining hall and science lab.

An all-weather sports pitch has also been constructed, giving pupils a chance to play sports all year round - previously the school playing field could be unplayable in winter.

I went along to visit the school last week and the new facilities are fantastic, it is certainly a case of a job well done. Most importantly of all, pupils are thoroughly enjoying being able to learn in better conditions.

On the subject of expansion, earlier this year we announced that a public consultation would get under way over the proposal to open Hampton Waters Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided School.

The consultation has now started and is being run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia (RCDEA) through their website www.rcdea.org.uk/vaschools/

This follows the submission of a bid to the Department of Education (DfE) by RCDEA for the school. The earliest the school could open would be September 2022.

We’ve said all along that we want to consult with residents before any final decision is made, so please don’t miss the chance to have your say.

Last week saw confirmation of the provisional Key Stage 2 (SATs) results and I’m pleased to report there were signs of improvement in comparison to last year.

There was a slight increase in the number of children reaching the required standard in reading, writing and maths, rising from 54 per cent last year to 54.5 per cent. The figure may rise further, when the full results are published in January.

Despite this, we need to continue to close the gap on the national average and get Peterborough climbing up the league table.

To help achieve this, we have been working with academy trusts and primary and secondary headteachers to develop a school-led improvement model, which is being used in other parts of the country, including Tower Hamlets in London.

This model makes use of the expertise and capacity within the city to provide targeted support and development for all schools in Peterborough, with links to other areas of the country which face similar challenges.

As I’ve said previously, these changes will take time, we’re not going to shoot up the table overnight.

So whilst seeing some small signs of improvement is very welcome, we remain fully committed to continuing to raise standards.

Finally, some further good news came last week, in the shape of additional education funding from government.

We expect our city’s schools will receive an extra £2.4 million, with the first chunk of funding arriving in April next year.

This is something we have been campaigning for for some time and having written to the education secretary, I’m delighted that our collective voice has been heard.