Back to school

September is a particularly busy time for us and our schools with children heading back to the classroom. This term even more so, with regards to some big changes around school meals which means that year one and two pupils will receive a free hot school dinner in line with new Government policy. The Council and our joint partner Entrust have been working closely with schools over the last year to make sure kitchens and canteens across the county were ready to deliver the extra dinners.

We know, from research, that children who received a hot school meal were more likely to perform better at school, so we are hoping the changes will have a positive impact on our children’s learning, health and well-being.

Staffordshire received the eighth largest settlement of 152 authorities: £2.03m for maintained and church schools. Work to prepare schools has ranged from installing serveries, refrigeration and new ovens, to making structural alterations to accommodate equipment and moving mains electricity and gas supplies. The changes will see a 40% increase in the number of meals produced and almost all our schools are now able to offer the extra dinners which is good news for families.

Staying with schools, we have also launched two new road safety campaigns this September to coincide with the start of the school year. The 20 is plenty campaign reminds drivers that a maximum speed of 20mph is enough outside schools to ensure the safety of pupils. Speed Indication Devices have been set up outside another 16 schools to let drivers know how fast they are going – they’ll flash if drivers go over 20mph. I’m pleased to see All Saints First School in Denstone, one of my local schools take part.

As well as reminding drivers about slowing down outside schools, pupils are also being targeted to do their bit in our ‘Ditch the Distractions’ campaign. This latest campaign is reminding pupils going up to big school for the first time that they need to be alert on the way to and from school. We know how easily distracted young people can be.

The campaign aims to discourage school children from messing about with their friends, and using smart phones, games and tablets while walking to school. Posters on display at the school, talks from road safety officers and a new online game, to be played only on a PC gives them tips and advice on taking care on the way to and from school.

Staffordshire remains in the top three counties for road safety in the country which is something we should be proud of, but we’ll continue to work hard to maintain this and improve it.

Finally, a new campaign has been launched to help raise the remaining £2.74m to keep the fascinating Wedgwood Collection together here in the county for future generations to enjoy. We’re hoping that the total £15.75m needed can be raised to purchase the 800-pieces and keep the collection intact.

Staffordshire’s ties with the Wedgwood dynasty stretch back more than 250 years and to this day Staffordshire County Council’s archives houses records of the births of Josiah Wedgwood who established the Wedgwood Company in 1754. The Wedgwood Collection is a unique archive and includes works of art such as Josiah Wedgwood’s celebrated Portland Vase and is a real asset for the county. I hope people will support the campaign.

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