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Looking for a job in:Northamptonshire

Don't tell me, I know where that is - it's ermI It's in the heart of England, of course. Don't you ever look at a map? Northamptonshire is midway between London and Birmingham, a fine rural county that's sometimes called the "county of spires and shires" because it has so many churches and stately homes. There's also a royal connection through Althorp, family home of the Spencers and last resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales. The county town of Northampton's wealth was founded on the shoe industry.

A load of old cobblers, then?

Not any more - you're more likely to find call centres than shoe factories. The county has lots of contrast. The south of the county is one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, but towns such as Corby and Northampton have high unemployment.

Educationally it's quite a mixed bag, too. Northampton and Oundle have traditionally had a three-tier system of schools but there's now a major review to bring in a two-tier system, as in the rest of the county. There are 38 secondaries, including nine upper-schools; 21 middle schools; 270 primaries, including 43 infants, 42 junior and 58 lower schools; 13 special schools; and eight nursery. The county has 12 specialist schools - six technology, four languages, one arts and one sports.

What's the education authority like?

The inspectors' report last October found the authority in good health, with strengths outweighing weaknesses and a leadership providing "a clear sense of direction for the education service with a determined focus on raising standards across the county".

The percentage of Northamptonshire's primary and secondary schools that were adjudged good or very good by inspectors is above the national average. Last year, two of the county's primary schools and one of its middle schools were in special measures, six schools were found to have serious weaknesses and one was found to be underachieving.

Is there much to do when the marking is done?

Northamptonshire is 80 per cent rural, with canals, rivers, lakes and gently rolling hills. There are 15 dedicated cycling routes around the county. Northampton is a historic market town which is still good for shoe shops, despite the decline of the industry. It has a new Sol Central complex, pubs clubs, a cinema, the Royal Theatre and the Derngate concert venue.

The surrounding towns are Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and Daventry. The county has good communication links - London is an hour away by rail, and there are good rail and motorway links to Birmingham and the North West. Derbyshire's Peak District is but an hour's drive.

Can I afford to live there?

Probably. According to Land Registry figures, the average semi-detached house in Northants costs a little over pound;85,000, while a flat or maisonette averages nearly pound;60,000.

Any famous sons or daughters?

Composer Malcolm Arnold, crooner Des O'Connor, chef Sophie Grigson and actress Lesley Joseph.

e-mail: martinwhittaker@ntlworld.com

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