When I became Leader a couple of months ago I made the decision to retain responsibility for the education portfolio because I am passionate about giving every child in the city the best start in life.
I am therefore very proud that last year the number of city schools that were judged good or better by Ofsted increased by the highest percentage in the country.
This progress has continued and following a series of successful inspections over the school year Peterborough is now above the national and regional average for the amount of children that attend good or better schools. 84 per cent of our pupils now attend a school judged to be in the top categories by Ofsted.
When you think that in 2009 we were at 58 per cent it shows what an enormous effort has been put in by my officers and the city’s teachers and pupils.
What I’m most encouraged by is the challenges we’ve overcome during this improvement. It’s been widely reported the large amount of money that has been spent on extending schools to keep pace with the increase in the number of pupils attending city schools. Peterborough is the most fertile place in the UK and the combination of high birth rates and migration has increased our school population by 24 per cent over the last 5 years – that’s around 4,000 extra children.
New modern learning environments are vital to improving achievement but the most crucial aspect is of course having great teachers.
Given the number of new pupils starting in Peterborough schools we obviously need more teachers so it was wonderful to attend the ceremony for our first graduates of Teach East – our own teacher training college. The vast majority will be starting as newly qualified teachers across city schools in September and I wish them the best of luck!
So I hope that teachers and pupils have a good break and come back in September fully refreshed for another great year at schools in Peterborough.
I know that a lot of our younger pupils will be doing a fair bit of reading over the summer. The Literacy Trust’s pop-up shop on Bridge Street gave away more than 1,200 free books last week and we’ll try and bring it back to the city again.
It was also encouraging to see the hard work of the young people taking part in our National Citizen Service three-week summer programme. After completing an activity week, around 50 young people have spent the last two weeks devising and then completing social action projects in the city. Some gave a makeover to Boongate underpass; others rolled up their sleeves and helped out at sheltered housing schemes; while some spent their time supporting friendship groups. It’s incredibly rewarding to see our young people taking pride in their community.
And to respond collectively to residents that have written to me asking when the first day of action will be taking place against anti-social behaviour in the city centre – well it’s going to be Monday, August 10. This is a joint effort with the police to stop those who ignore the Bridge Street cycling ban as well as tackling other offences such as spitting, littering and begging.