Canalloni junction

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Birmingham: the city that gave us the pneumatic tyre, spaghetti junction and Jasper Carrott.

Actually, Birmingham has seen something of a transformation in recent years, meriting the title of Britain's second city. It was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and it is still proud of its heritage. "More miles of canal than Venice" is the oft-used slogan.

The once drab city centre is undergoing an extensive regeneration programme around the Bull Ring shopping centre. Millennium Point - a massive learning and technology complex - opens in September. Birmingham has also developed quite a reputation in the arts and has put in a bid to be the European capital of culture in 2008.

Isn't it at the cutting edge in education, too?

True. Under its outspoken chief education officer, Professor Tim Brighouse, Labour-run Birmingham has developed a reputation as a strident education authority that does well by its schools and its teachers. Last year, it jumped from 112th to 105th place in terms of numbers gaining five GCSE passes.

The city runs 25 nursery schools, 26 community nurseries, 328 primary schools, 77 secondaries and 28 special schools, including 15 for secondary-age pupils. The authority's induction programme is held in very high regard; schools can choose whether to buy into it and nearly all of them do.

There is a huge multi-cultural mix in Birmingham's schools, with about 40 per cent of pupils from Afro-Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani and other ethnic minorities.

"As we are such a large authority, we can offer teachers wide and varied career opportunities without having to leave the city boundaries," said an authority spokeswoman.

Sounds great. When do I begin?

The city's schools are short of teachers. "We do have difficulties, but we're not anywhere near as bad as London and the South East," the spokeswoman said.

There are shortages of headteachers at all levels, experienced and newly qualified teachers in key stages one and two and in secondary school maths, science, English, music, drama and sport. Vacancies are advertised online at www.tesjobs.co.uk Much to do after school?

Where to start? Birmingham has more parks than any other European city, three theatres, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, good museums and galleries, big concert and sporting venues such as the National Exhibition Centre and the National Indoor Arena and test matches at Edgbaston. It is home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club and soccer teams Birmingham City and Aston Villa. The city also has the Jewellery Quarter. And the real jewel in its crown - its balti houses.

Can I afford to live there?

Possibly. The average price of a three-bedroom semi-detached house is pound;135,000. You can pay pound;75,000 to pound;90,000 for the same in Acock's Green, while in posher Harborne prices go above pound;200,000. The average cost of renting a three-bedroom semi is pound;650 per month.

Famous sons, daughters or residents?

Quaker industrialist George Cadbury, cricketer Dennis Amiss, actor Ian Lavender (Dad's Army), and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis.

e-mail: martinwhittaker@ntlworld.com

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