ST HELENS is celebrating a shining treble for its award-winning education service as three schools receive special status.

St Augustine's High and St Peter's CE Primary schools have been given Beacon status -- two of only 20 across the North West to achieve the award which brings with it a £50,000 bonus each to help them share their expertise with neighbouring schools to further help raise standards.

Head teachers Barbara Horsfall from St Peter's, and Peter Murphy from St Augustine's said they were excited and delighted at the award which was a tribute to staff, governors, pupils and parents.

From September Cowley High School will be known as Cowley Language College after being given Specialist Language College status -- one of only 126 such colleges in the country.

Head teacher Mike Ryder says he is delighted at the news. "We will be at the cutting edge of technology with our state-of-the-art 'international learning centre' providing a wide range of language learning opportunities for pupils, the local community and businesses.

"In the increasingly international world of business and industry, employers want people with excellent linguistic skills who can operate across cultural boundaries. Greater work opportunities will be available as linguistic skills and cultural knowledge are increased in the area. Pacific Rim languages will be offered as well as European language".

This brings the total of Beacon schools in St Helens to eight (six primary and two secondary) and the number of specialist schools to three. It's a very high proportion of schools for the size of the borough and demonstrates the excellent standard of education available in the borough.

Councillor Andy Bowden, the council's Executive Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: "This is a major achievement for all three schools and reflects the dedication of staff and hard work of the pupils in those schools. We must now continue to build on his success to ensure that progress is made in raising standards and the attainment of all young people in schools across the borough".