Back to school

It was back to school for many across the county, and it certainly seems that the weather after a short burst of sunshine is adapting to the autumn term! This time of year always reminds me of how crucial education is. It’s the best lever for young people to access the world, which is why continuing to provide access to high quality education is so important for our children and young people in the region, giving them the best chance in life.

Whilst there have been a lot of changes in education recently, we are a local and regional leader and education therefore needs our undivided attention. It’s not just about how good education benefits life chances, it’s the basis for building the skills that we need to attract high flying companies  to Staffordshire and to create the jobs that will diversify and enrich our economy.

You’ve probably heard in the media, stories about the availability of primary school places, and providing school places is a key part of what we do. The expected crunch in some areas is unlikely to be repeated in Staffordshire. This year we added 211 reception places for 2013 through building a brand new school in Burton, rebuilding and remodelling existing schools, and by making the best use of existing accommodation. We’re also on target to create the extra 2,500 new primary school places we need over the next five years, and despite pressures on school places, 97 per cent of parents have been allocated one of their top three preferred primary schools. Increased demand for school places is a challenge but the upside is that this means we’ll have more young adults after years of concern about our aging population.

The overall welfare of pupils is also important. We’ve invested £1 million as part of a capital programme of improvements to help schools be safer and more energy efficient, reducing energy costs through schemes such as, upgrading boilers, improving heating controls and installing more energy efficient lighting. This benefits everyone with lower CO2 emissions and energy bill reductions across Council services.

Our partner Entrust has also recruited an experienced Executive Chef to provide healthy and nutritious school meals using, where feasible, Staffordshire suppliers: our fresh meat comes from two Staffordshire butchers, fresh fruit and vegetables from four Staffordshire greengrocers, and our milk from a Staffordshire dairy. Keeping it local also, of course, helps to boost our economy, but also provides a lesson to all of us about how it is possible to provide using our local area and rural economy.

Education is important to all of us, pupils, family, the wider community, this Council and our partners. Together we can create the schools we want, and provide the very best education so that our young people are prepared for the world with the skills that they need.

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