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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK


Leicester's education director resigns

Privatisation of services could follow a poor report

Leicester City Council's education director has resigned following a damning inspection report.

Tom Warren said in a statement he was resigning on personal grounds, after the council's education department was severely criticised by government inspectors.

The government has announced that consultants will be brought in to help Leicester make urgent improvements to its services for schools - a move which could lead to the privatisation of the LEA's education services.

The BBC's Richard Bilton: "Leicester inherited many schools which were already judged to be failing"
Mr Warren said on Friday it was in the best interests of the LEA that a new director should be found who is untouched by the stresses and strains of the past three years.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) report says poor teaching and inadequate management are the underlying causes of schools failing in the city.

The inspection has found that the LEA is unable to provide the expertise needed to support its struggling schools.

Serious weaknesses

The intervention of consultants follows similar moves in other LEAs in England. In Hackney and Liverpool, consultants recommended that part of the authorities' education services should be contracted out.

In Islington, they recommended that almost all the education services should be privatised.

[ image: Exam results have been below average in the authority]
Exam results have been below average in the authority
Reports have suggested that problems in Leicester are not as serious.

According to inspectors, one in four schools in the city have serious weaknesses or are in special measures and exam results are below national averages.

"The local education authority lacks the capacity to support and challenge all of its schools, particularly in secondary schools. It lacks expertise in key areas and it lacks sufficient strategic direction," the report says.

"In our view it is not capable of performing all of its functions in such a way as to contribute fully to raising standards."

Leicester city is a unitary authority, created in 1997, and the inspectors highlighted that it had inherited a great many problems, such as would have "presented a severe challenge even to most well-established and experience education authorities".

Urgent action

Its poor record in educational achievement, the report notes, is against a background of "high levels of social disadvantage and greater than average numbers of pupils with special educational needs".

Schools Minister Estelle Morris said the LEA must act urgently to achieve improvement.

"Leicester City has agreed the appointment of consultants to undertake diagnostic work which is designed to make concrete proposals about how to deal with the need significantly to improve the education services provided.

"Leicester City has agreed to work. The LEA has told us that they recognise the need for swift improvement in its education services. We very much welcome this commitment.

"This is a real opportunity for Leicester City to make a positive difference in the quality of education being offered to every pupil. The Ofsted report should be a catalyst for change."

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