December 11: School league tables concern

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Yorkshire’s poor performance

WHEN it comes to the so-called three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – too many of our primary school children simply aren’t making the grade.

There is a depressing familiarity about the new league tables which show, yet again, that Yorkshire has some of the worst performing areas in the country when it comes to reading and maths amongst 11-year-olds.

Schools in both Doncaster and Bradford were singled out by the Department for Education (DfE) as being among the lowest performing authority areas in England. What makes this even more worrying is that the overall picture around the country is improving with 90,000 more pupils leaving primary school with a good grounding in reading, writing and maths – compared to 2010.

The reality is that Yorkshire’s poor performance is nothing new. What makes it particularly frustrating is we do have talented teachers and pupils and successful schools, but the danger is that Yorkshire will be seen as a poor relation when it comes to primary school education. We need to get the basics right otherwise too many of our children run the risk of being left behind.

But amid the dispiriting facts and figures there are some notes of optimism. The East Riding remains the region’s best performing area with 82 per cent of pupils making the grade. But perhaps the biggest success story of the day is Hull, which has risen by six percentage points on last year’s tables.

This might not sound much but for a city that has traditionally languished at the wrong end of school performance tables, it’s a huge achievement and those responsible for this turnaround in fortunes deserve resounding praise.

Not only that, but there is more than a glimmer of hope here and the message ought to be – if Hull can do it, there’s no reason why other struggling areas can’t, too.

The end of an era

Mining communities need help

COAL fuelled the Industrial Revolution that powered Britain to greatness, it heated our homes and it provided jobs and security for generations of workers in towns and villages around the country.

But all that is coming to an end. Next week the country’s last deep pit coal mine at Kellingley, near Castleford, will close its doors. It is not just the last breath of a dying industry in this country, it’s the end of a way of life.

This Yorkshire super pit once employed 3,000 people and its impending closure is a poignant moment, not just for Yorkshire, but an entire industry. The demise of Kellingley means that all 170 collieries that operated at the time of the Miners’ Strike 30 years ago will have finally closed.

Today, coal is viewed by many people as a dirty fossil fuel that no longer has a role to play in Britain’s long-term energy supply. That may be the case and with climate change a growing issue there is a need, at least in part, to embrace cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy. But that does not mean we should neglect these once thriving mining communities.

Writing in this newspaper, Professor Steve Fothergill, who heads the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, highlights the importance of regenerating former coalfield areas. He is quite right to do so. Communities often struggle to cope with the impact of pit closures and failure to support them can have a devastating impact.

Pits like Kellingley were once the backbone of British industry. Not only should this not be forgotten, but the communities left behind must be given every opportunity to build a new future.

Sticky situation

Football club scores own goal

WHEN farm shop owner Daniela Troop tried to trademark its village name “Everton” she had no idea that she would find herself embroiled in a legal wrangle with a Premier League giant.

But when the mother-of-three attempted to trademark “Everton Farm Shop” in the Doncaster village she found herself in a sticky situation with The Toffees.

The club have reportedly told her that she can continue to use Everton Farm Shop, so long as all the words are in the same size and font. This is despite the fact that the Troop family has farmed Everton land since 1440, whereas Everton FC was only founded in 1878.

The family have yet to take up the offer but have invited executives, players – and lawyers – at the club to come round for a Yule Boar roast next week. The club has declined to comment and we can only hope that common sense will prevail as it seems the Toffees have come a bit unstuck over this one.