As the year comes to a close, it’s great to hear the good news that students in Knowsley will once again have the option to study A Level courses here in their home borough from September 2018.
A new A Level Academy is being opened by Knowsley Community College at their site off Stockbridge Lane in Huyton.
As you’ll remember, there was a lot of publicity around Knowsley having nowhere for young people to study A Levels when the last of our schools to offer them announced that they were no longer able to do so after August this year. We said at the time that we would everything we could to have A Level provision reintroduced as quickly as possible, so I’m pleased to see that our efforts have been rewarded and that our borough was without provision for the shortest time possible.
There were, of course, many reasons why Knowsley found itself in that position. In one way, we were fortunate, because there are a number of high quality sixth forms and colleges just over the border with our neighbouring boroughs which were attracting our students. But that meant that providers in Knowsley had been struggling to attract enough pupils to make their own offers work financially. We also knew that there was work to do in order to increase GCSE attainment in the borough’s schools, which is the very best way to increase local demand for A Level courses.
So we’ve been working hard to increase attainment in our schools, and that work is ongoing. There have been some very promising signs of improvement in the last year, with an above average increase in GCSE results and the achievement of Halewood Academy which is now graded by Ofsted as “Good” having turned around an earlier “inadequate” judgement in just two years.
And our Education Commission continues its work to ensure that there is effective challenge at every level in the system – we want all schools, teachers, pupils, governors, parents, councillors, council officers and everyone else involved in the school system to be pushing hard every day to achieve more and more for our young people.
So the opening of a new A Level College, which has been made possible by the merger of St Helens College and Knowsley Community College, is another really positive step for education in the borough, opening up more possibilities for local young people. It also shows that those critics who have recently said that we were “abandoning plans” to bring back A Levels simply don’t know what they are talking about – perhaps they need to go back to school themselves.
But rest assured, we know it is far from “job done” and we want to secure a number of options for A Level provision in the borough in future years to give local students more choice.