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Issue Date:- 25/27 August 2008

Safer towing message after spate of incidents

THE Highways Agency Traffic Officers in the North West are urging people to double-check their caravans and trailers after a spate of accidents in the region.

On Thursday, 21 August 2008 a car and caravan overturned on the M6 at Sandbach in Cheshire, closing two lanes of the northbound carriageway and partly restricting the third lane for two hours, along one of the busiest stretches of motorway in the region.

The Highways Agency recently launched a safety DVD, Fit to Tow, featuring popular television presenter Carol Smillie and examining the importance of drivers ensuring they are towing safely.

Incidents involving vehicles towing caravans or trailers account for around 43 fatalities and 1400 injuries on England's roads annually - as well as congestion caused by lane and carriageway closures, often for several hours at a time.

Last year the North West had the second highest number of towing-related incidents with 1,558 out of a total 9,394 across the country.

Over the past month there has been a spate of accidents on local motorways including:-

* An incident on the M61 on 4 July 2008, when a car and caravan ended up straddling the central reservation near Lostock closing one lane of the motorway in one direction and two lanes in the other for several hours.

* An incident on the M6 on 7 August 2008, when a whole wheel came off a caravan which was being towed along the M6 near Lymm in Cheshire.  According to Highways Agency Traffic Officers who went to the scene the wheel missed being catapulted across the central reservation into oncoming traffic by inches.

* A caravan overturning on the M6 near Preston on 16 August 2008, closing three lanes of the four lane southbound carriageway

* Another caravan overturning on Wednesday, 20 August 2008, at rush hour on the M61, near Chorley, resulted in the blocking two lanes of the motorway for more than two hours.

Jamie Carr, Regional Operations Manager in charge of the North West Traffic Officer Service, said:- "It is not our place to investigate or speculate on the causes of accidents - and accidents happen of course - but there has been a spate of incidents in the North West over the last month and it is perhaps timely for us to urge drivers to check and double check before they take to the roads.

Although it is the end of August, some people will still be heading off for or returning from caravan holidays.  And our towing advice applies to anybody planning to tow anything - including trailers and horseboxes as well as caravans."

A key issue for anyone towing a caravan or trailer is to ensure it is regularly maintained and checked - especially after a long winter lay off.  Drivers should also ensure any loads are correctly balanced within the caravan or trailer and that they have insurance and recovery in the event of an accident or break down.

The Fit to Tow DVD and advice leaflet can be viewed online at  Alternatively, a copy of the DVD or leaflet can be obtained by calling the Highways Agency Information Line on 08457 5040 30.

Liverpool surpasses GCSE landmark

LIVERPOOL schoolchildren are celebrating after helping the city surpass the national GCSE average for the first time.

Provisional figures show the number of pupils gaining five or more A*-C grades in the city has shot up by almost 10 per cent, with 67.7% of pupils achieving the grades compared to 58% in 2007. With the number of pupils nationally achieving A*-C reported to be 65.7% this year, it means Liverpool is projected to be around 2% above the national average.

And the outlook for children achieving five or more A*- C including English and Maths looks equally bright – with a huge increase from 37.1% in 2007 to 42.7% this year. This outstrips the national rate of improvement and means Liverpool has closed the gap on the national average to just 4%.

Councillor Keith Turner, executive member for children's services, said:- "This is a monumental achievement for Liverpool, and I am thrilled that our investment in education in this city is paying off.

Eight years ago, we were lagging way below the national average, with only 36% of Liverpool schoolchildren achieving A*-C in their GCSEs. But year on year we have improved and closed the gap - and to have surpassed this landmark in 2008 is fantastic news for this city.

I would like to congratulate our young people for their wonderful achievements. Their dedication, along with the efforts of teachers and parents and strong resolve from our schools has really paid dividends.

But while there is much cause for celebration, we will not be resting on our laurels and we will be working even harder to continue improving outcomes for our young people every year.”

Liverpool schools have enjoyed some real success stories, including Fazakerley School, which has seen a massive 32.6% increase in pupils achieving A*-C grades, up to 79.6%. The school also made huge strides in A*-C grades including English and Maths. A massive jump from 18% to 34.5% saw the school surpass the targets set by the government’s ‘National Challenge’.

Shorefields School enjoyed their best ever GCSE results, increasing from 30 percent A*-C grades to 43.4%, while Cardinal Heenan school’s A*-C grades rose from 72% to a massive 92.9%.

And West Derby School saw a huge increase in A*-C grades, from 58% to 77.5% - an increase of almost 20%.

Liverpool City Council's Executive Director for children's services, Stuart Smith, said:- "Surpassing the national average at GCSE level reflects the huge effort that is going into developing a first-class education service in this city, and creating brighter futures for all our young people.

Reaching this milestone has been a long, challenging and exciting journey for everyone involved in education in Liverpool. And in many ways, the journey is only just beginning, and there is still much more for us to achieve.

But for today we can celebrate, and reflect on a job well done. I would like to thank all the students and teachers who have put in so much effort to achieve these results. I know how hard they have worked and they should be extremely proud of themselves. Liverpool’s success is down to their commitment and dedication.”

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