There was much to be angry about in the Chancellor’s budget statement this week – not least his overall lack of commitment to ending inequality.
But one of the things that particularly concerned us here at the council was the Government’s proposal to force all schools to become academies by 2022.
There is absolutely no evidence to support the view – locally or nationally - that academy status leads to improvements.
In fact we’d argue the opposite – with 82 per cent of council-maintained schools across the country now rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
Furthermore, Ofsted has not only identified that improvement in secondary schools – most of which are academies – has stalled, but it has praised strong improvement in primary schools, most of which are maintained.
Rather than putting all their energies into this, the Government should address the real issues in education - like the alarmingly high teacher shortage, the ever growing crisis in school places and the widening attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
Everyone has a role to play in helping to prevent child sexual exploitation (CSE).
That’s a message we’re keen to highlight from today (Friday 17 March) as local authorities like St Helens and other agencies help to promote National CSE Awareness Day.
Organised by the National Working Group (NWG) charity, CSE Awareness Day aims to highlight the issues surrounding CSE - encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt zero tolerance towards adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.
This type of exploitation and abuse can have a devastating impact on young people throughout their lives. On average it takes a victim seven years to tell someone what has happened to them - either because they are ashamed, they have no-one they can trust to believe them, or no-one actually asks in the first place.
If you’re concerned your child is at risk you can contact Merseyside Police either by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also contact the Children & Young People’s Contact Centre on 01744 676600.
For further information about how you can help protect your child/children from the risks of CSE, visit www.sthelenslscb.org.uk
Don’t forget we’re offering free parking on all council car parks and on-street pay and display bays on Good Friday (Friday, March 25).
So whether you’re doing some last minute Easter shopping – or planning to come to the Saints-Wigan game (ko 3.15pm) - you won’t have to pay to park.
The Good Friday fixture is one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar. So to celebrate, we’ve decided to offer free car parking to welcome as many people as possible - no matter which side of the hill they’re from - to enjoy what we’ve got to offer here in St Helens town centre.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate Andy Cooke on being appointed Chief Constable of Merseyside Police. He has a long and impeccable history of service to Merseyside and I’m certain our local police force will be in very capable hands. I’d also like to thank and wish well Sir Jon Murphy, who will be stepping down from the role in June, after 41 years as an officer.