Barrie Grunewald: Education is a top priority

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We’ve taken a big step towards our goal of driving up educational standards in our schools.

Last week we announced the appointment of Phil Fitzpatrick as our local Schools Commissioner – becoming one of the first authorities in the country to create such a role.

Phil’s role will be, quite simply, to regularly and robustly hold schools to account for their performance.

And I believe we couldn’t have got a better man for the job. He has a great track record in the secondary sector for delivering rapid improvements,

He’s turned around several schools, including Birkdale High in Sefton which went from special measures in 2011 to a ‘good’ Ofsted rating just two years later.

I’m delighted that Phil’s joining us and look forward to working with him as we help our children and young people fulfil their potential.

This week (17 to 21 November) is Anti-Bullying week and I’m calling on all schools, children, young people, parents and carers to work together to stop bullying for all.

Bullying behaviour is something that affects children and young people emotionally and physically – and which can have a lasting impact into adulthood.

However, I believe that bullying is a behaviour that can be stopped - and changed - so that all children and young people feel safe in St Helens.

Schools and other settings have been busy planning a range of awareness raising and prevention activities this week - such as assemblies, poster competitions, peer listening and friendship lessons.

And I’m confident that these key messages and knowing where to go for help will stay with children, young people and their families throughout the year.

If any families are concerned about bullying, please speak with the head teacher at your child’s school or visit http://sthelens.gov.uk/antibullying for information and help.

If you were in the town centre on Saturday night I hope you had a great night! I know I did.

The Christmas lights switch on in Victoria Square was a real family friendly occasion – heralding the arrival of the festive season in fine style.

Thousands of residents turned out for what must be one of the biggest and best free shows in the area.

X Factor stars Paul Akister and Lola Saunders were late additions to the bill - but certainly didn’t disappoint. Along with Bars and Melody, the Lancashire Hotpots, the Lightning Seeds, Scouting for Girls, the Hummingbirds and a host of local stars, it made for a memorable night.

Now all that remains is that Christmas shopping.