Barrie Grunewald: Our hard-working GCSE pupils deserve praise

Council leader Barrie Grunewald
Council leader Barrie Grunewald

This week has certainly been one worth celebrating as our Cultural Hubs team was crowned the UK’s favourite arts programme - and many of our secondary schools recorded excellent GCSE results.

Actor Ralf Little was down at Central Library on Wednesday afternoon to present Cultural Hubs with a prestigious National Lottery Awards trophy after the British public recognised the programme’s impressive achievements by way of vote.

The achievement and national recognition comes with a prize of £3,000 to boost Cultural Hubs’ diverse programme of arts based performances, plays, gigs, workshops, courses and exhibitions, enabling more emerging and established artists and performers to showcase their talent and creativity in St Helens.

The project has so far benefitted from £249,600 of National Lottery funding to entertain, up-skill and improve the wellbeing of over 4,000 people across St Helens.

We’re extremely honoured and proud that our Cultural Hubs – Arts in Libraries programme has received so much support in the National Lottery Awards from the borough and beyond.

Over the past couple of years, Lottery money distributed through Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts (Libraries) fund has really helped us to provide a varied programme of brilliant cultural activities across our library network.

St Helens is a shining example of how the arts can be used to enliven library spaces. I’d like to thank everyone who helped us win by promoting and voting for our nomination, and the library and arts services for their dedication and passion.

The team will attend a glittering awards ceremony in London – to be broadcast on BBC One in September, so don’t forget to tune in.

The celebrations continued on Thursday when the anxious wait for our secondary students awaiting their GCSE results was finally over.

Against a backdrop of continuing change in education, including the introduction of a new performance measure, Attainment 8, there has been a picture of improvement in our secondaries.

Attainment 8 reflects the achievement of a student across eight qualifications, measuring a student’s average grade across those subjects.

Last year, the overall Attainment 8 score for St Helens was 46.0 per cent compared to the national figure in 2015 of 48.4 per cent. This year, St Helens Attainment 8 figure is 49.1 per cent.

There were impressive performances at several local schools, including St Cuthbert’s, which recorded its best ever results after 54 per cent of students achieved five A*-C grades. A 5 per cent increase on last year’s performance.

I’d like to congratulate all those students across the borough who worked so hard to achieve these results.

They can now look forward to further studies - or the world of work and training. It is an exciting time for them all, and for their futures.

However, exam results should not define our young people. Yes, they’re important, but for those who didn’t get what they were looking for, there are still plenty of opportunities available and I would encourage you to speak to your school or local college and ask for advice about the options out there for you.