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Wednesday, June 17, 1998 Published at 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK


Education

Manchester caned by inspectors

Manchester is required by law to act on the report's findings

Manchester City Council has been censured by inspectors for "failing" 140 pupils who were expelled from its schools.

A highly critical report from the Office for Standards in Education suggests that they are simply left to wander the streets.

"Despite surplus places in schools and a statutory obligation to provoide education, Manchester has been unable to say what, if an, educational provision was being made for them," says the report.

The first official inspection report on an English local education authority describes it as "beset with problems".


[ image: Ofsted plans to inspect a further 14 authorities in 1998]
Ofsted plans to inspect a further 14 authorities in 1998
Other areas of concern include high rates of truancy, low levels of pupil achievement at all levels, and school budget deficits of more than £6m - the highest in England.

And services for pupils with educational and behavioural problems fail to match the needs of children or schools.

The report says that many of the problems are not caused by poverty but are "the political and managerial responsibility of the local education authority".

It recognises signs of school improvement and praises services such as music support, but concludes that the authority has been slow to devise solutions to long-term problems and "is not protecting, or acting as advocate for, some of the most vulnerable children".

The Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Chris Woodhead, said: "The children, parents and teachers of Manchester deserve better than this; so, too, do the members of the City Council, whose drive for improvement is not being adequately translated into action.

"I hope this report will encourage the officers of the local education authority to pursue the problems faced by the people of Manchester with greater urgency and strategic sense than seems to have been the case in the past."

Action plan

The Schools Standards Minister, Stephen Byers, told the Labour-controlled authority to take urgent action to rectify the problems and report to him on what was being done by July 17.

Manchester also has to provide the Minister with a full improvement action plan by September 1.

Mr Byers said: "There are 70,000 children being educated in Manchester's schools. They need a far better deal than they are getting at the moment.

"Local education authorities have a clear role in raising standards in schools.

"We now look to Manchester to take the necessary steps to meet the challenges that lie ahead."

Conservatives have seized on the findings as an example of how Labour councils are failing pupils.

The Shadow Schools Minister, Theresa May, said Manchester City Council should be ashamed.

"The Ofsted report shows an appalling record of mismanagement and failure," she said.

'Inconsistent'

The leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, said there would be a positive response to the report, but he described it as "inconsistent" in places and said it "would not win any prizes for the quality of its research".

There would be no resignations because the report gave no reason why any should be contemplated, he told a news conference at Manchester Town Hall.

"Most of the recommendations in the report are things that we identified to Ofsted as being our priorities," said Mr Leese.

He said the council would be asking for extra cash from the government to deliver improvements in provision for excluded children.

Although other local education authorities have been inspected informally by Ofsted in the past, this report is the first carried out under the Education Act 1997, which means the city's education officials are legally obliged to act on the findings.

The Manchester inspection is the first of a programme of 15 local education authority inspections that Ofsted is scheduled to carry out during 1998.

The others are: Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Brent, Kingston-upon-Thames, Sandwell, Sunderland, Bury, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Kent Surrey, Norfolk, Newham and Kingston-upon-Hull.



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