You’ll know by now that driving up education standards in our secondary schools is something I’m determined to do as council leader.
Making our young people more employable is all part of my overarching aim of making St Helens a great place to do business – which creates jobs and opportunities. But we need to make sure we nurture local talent and skills to fill those vacancies.
And now I’m delighted to say that we’ve taken a big step towards achieving that goal by creating a new Education Task Group.
Quite simply its remit will be to drive up school standards.
It’s not just another council committee - but a group of dedicated specialists assembled for their knowledge, commitment and proven track records in this area.
It’s being led by Sean McGuire, perhaps better known as the former chief executive at Saints. But Sean is also head of Ambitious Minds, a company that delivers life skills training for young people, and shares my view that our schools could – and should – improve.
Sean will be assisted by people like Kath Boullen from St Helens Chamber, Jette Burford Principal of St Helens College, some of our most dynamic head teachers and national education officials. The group will also be helped by the nationally-acclaimed RSA Action and Research Centre, who conducted a major education enquiry in Suffolk.
From now on our mantra is ‘every child matters – no school left behind’. Until now we’ve seen too many young people growing up disengaged, not connected, and many who, sadly, believe their future does not lie in this town. Too many graduates leave because they don’t believe St. Helens is a place they can invest their future in.
We have to address this issue - and I firmly believe it can be done.
Following on from the task group’s findings, the council will have the powers to intervene at under-performing schools and other providers and will offer support to governors. It will also challenge them on the proper use of funding and the quality of their school environment.
At the end of the day our goals are simply to boost educational attainment, improve employability skills and raise expectations - so that our young people can aspire, achieve and fulfil their true potential.