Local elections 23: Education - We’re going in the right direction

The past year we have seen an impressive rise in the achievement of pupils with the cityThe past year we have seen an impressive rise in the achievement of pupils with the city
The past year we have seen an impressive rise in the achievement of pupils with the city
Education has long been a priority for us in the Conservatives, as we know how important it is that our children and young people have the best start in life and go on to fulfil their potential, writes Conservative Group press officer Andy Coles.

In the past year we have seen an impressive rise in the achievement of pupils with the city moving its way up the league tables at primary and secondary level.

For Key Stage 2 (primary level), we moved up to 123rd in the league tables - an increase in 25 places in three years - for achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. It means we are now placed higher than Norfolk, Suffolk, Central Bedfordshire, and Bedford Borough in the Eastern Region in the table of 152 authorities.

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The gap between Peterborough’s attainment level of 55% and the national level of 59% is now 4% - compared to 12% six years ago.

There has been good results in secondary outcomes too, which saw the city move up to 35th nationally out of 151 authorities for Progress 8 – a measure of the value schools have added to a pupil from their starting position compared to other pupils nationally. This is an improvement of 37 places from the previous year - more great news.

Keeping with the same theme, children starting school this September received their offer of school place this week. It is always quite a challenge for our admissions staff to allocate places in a fair way, which matches the thousands of requests they receive.

I'm pleased to say that the proportion of children in Peterborough offered a place at their preferred primary school for this September has risen. A total of 97.1 per cent were offered a place at their first-choice school – up from 94.4 per cent last year. It was a similar theme on secondary school offer day in March, when more pupils than last year were offered a place at their first preference school.

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We received more applications this year than last, yet once again we have been able to offer so many children their first choice of primary school for this September. This is down to the hard work and dedication of officers who have worked over many years to ensure there are local places for local children in our schools.

I'm pleased to say that we'll soon be able to announce more details about plans to increase the support we offer to families with young children as part of the Family Hubs offer.

You might recall that Peterborough was one of 75 places awarded funding by the Government to develop the Family Hubs model which is based around one-stop shops where families can access important services under one roof – online or in a building.

We're currently working with the current child and family centre providers Barnardo’s to establish three primary hubs at First Steps child and family centre in Dogsthorpe, Honeyhill child and family centre in Paston and Orton child and family centres in Herlington.

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The £3m funding will also be used to improve access to information online so that more families can easily access the information they need.

In particular, the Family Hubs network of organisations will work together to develop services which will include infant feeding, parenting support for those with younger children and online parenting courses.

The first two years of a child's life are so important, and we know that a child's experiences from conception to age five play a critical role in their development. This funding will make it easier for families to get the help they need and to improve the support on offer, supporting us to give every child the best possible start in life.

And finally, today (Thursday) our council leader Wayne Fitzgerald and the council's chief executive Matt Gladstone will be presenting to a panel of judges in London as part of our shortlisting for “Most Improved Council” at this year's Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards.

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As the Council Leader said in his column a few weeks back, it's a fantastic achievement to be shortlisted for this award and is testimony to the dedication, commitment and hard work that's been delivered by our staff, councillors, and partners.

The council has come such a long way in the space of 12 months, and despite unprecedented circumstances including a very challenging economic climate, we have seen progress in every single area that we set out to improve. Not only that, but we have also seen progress in so many other areas - our university opened in September and work is about to begin on phase 3 and we have this year secured £48m to regenerate our Station Quarter, for example.

We know that we still have some way to go to fully deliver the aims of our Improvement Plan and Corporate Strategy to make Peterborough the best place it can be for those who live and work here and as a visitor destination, but this shortlisting demonstrates that the improvement we have made is worthy of national recognition.

Fingers crossed for June when we find out if the council has won!