A nice life if you can get it

6th October 2000 at 01:00
Isn't that where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud?

Yes - his childhood in the Lake District inspired much of his work. Today Cumbria thrives on tourism and is famed for its breathtaking scenery.

Isn't some of it a bit remote?

Geographically Cumbria is huge - the second biggest shire county in the UK. It's also a county of huge contrasts. As well as the splendour of the Lakes and the Pennines, there are also industrial towns like Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness, with high unemployment and deprivation.

Cumbria has many schools - 299 primaries, 42 secondaries, 14 nursery schools and five special schools. One of the secondaries is selective, the rest are comprehensive. The smallest secondary has some 117 pupils, the biggest 1,750.

So there are lots of jobs going then?

Actually no. The LEA has never had a big recruitment problem, and it still bucks the national trend for shortages of teachers. There's a very low staff turnover in schools - mainly because it's such an attractive place to live and work, and many native Cumbrians choose to stay.

However, having said that, some Cumbrian secondary schools are beginning to have difficulty recruiting in maths an modern languages.

How are its schools performing?

In terms of exam results, key stage 2 tests last year in English, Maths and Science were above the national average, though at key stage 4 those achieving five or more A-Cs was slightly below average. Numbers staying on post-16 are also below the national average.

Why is Cumbria so popular?

Quality of life. Its director of education John Nellist says: "Inevitably we get lots of applications from people who like mountains, climbing and walking.

"If you like being able to drive without having to sit in traffic for hours, Cumbria is definitely for you. And the cost of living is not too outrageous."

So more spare cash for walking gear?

Houses can be cheap. In the market town of Penrith, a three-bedroom semi can range from pound;45,000 to pound;90,000, while in Carlisle, prices are around 20 per cent cheaper. In the Lake District a three-bed semi in a village setting can cost pound;80,000, but a view of the Lakes won't come easily to a teacher's salary. A one-bedroom flat in Penrith is around pound;250-300 per month to rent.

Famous sonsdaughters?

Beatrix Potter, Coleridge. Oh, and did I mention Wordsworth?

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