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The BBC's Guy Hand reports on Southwark's troubles
"The pressure is now on the government"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 13:36 GMT
Government intervention for more authorities

class Some authorities are letting schools down


The government has ordered intervention in another three local education authorities following critical inspection reports.

Consultants are to be sent into the London Borough of Southwark, and Walsall and Bristol councils as a result of the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) reports.

School Standards Minister Estelle Morris has made it clear that privatisation of at least some services in Southwark and Walsall is expected.

She said that in Southwark, consultants would be asked to advice on "substantial" outsourcing.

The report on Southwark is one of the most damning LEA inspection reports published to date.


Bristol Council House Bristol City Council's education services are "mixed"
A year ago, inspectors found it to have "serious weaknesses". On Tuesday, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Chris Woodhead, said the re-inspection had found that things had, if anything, got worse.

The picture was now "dismal and bleak", and local schools had lost all confidence in the authority, questioning its very purpose.

The borough now looks set to be the third in London - after Hackney and Islington - to face the loss of substantial education services to outside contractors.

Southwark's director of education, Gordon Mott, took early retirement weeks before the return of inspectors earlier this year, although he denied the re-inspection was the cause of his departure.

The position he vacated has not yet been filled. But the education committee chairwoman Stephanie Elsy said the council fully accepted the Ofsted report.

"Parents and children in our borough deserve the very best in education and we are resolute in our intention to speed up the pace of improvement wherever possible," she said.

'Serious problems' in Walsall

The inspectors' verdict on Walsall was that key functions were not being performed adequately. These included planning the education budget, support for schools causing concern, support for maintaining discipline in schools, and support for pupils with special educational needs.

Ms Morris said that while the LEA had some good features, the "serious problems" highlighted in the report had to be addressed as quickly as possible.

The LEA had agreed to work with the government to tackle the problems, and outsourcing services would be considered as part of the solution.

Bristol's 'difficult legacy'

Of the three reports, the one on Bristol was the least critical, but Mr Woodhead said inspectors still found its education services "mixed".

"This is an LEA does some things well after inheriting a difficult legacy when it replaced Avon County Council, but nevertheless, the performance of the city's schools remains well below national norms at all key stages."

Major problems included the maintenance of school buildings, planning for secondary school places, and financial management.

Ms Morris said all three reports published by Ofsted "require action to address weaknesses which are letting down pupils, staff and parents".


Chris Woodhead Chris Woodhead: "The overall message is disturbing"
She has previously said she expects the Government will have to intervene in one in 10 LEAs being inspected by Ofsted.

As the reports on the three LEAs were published on Tuesday, Mr Woodhead said that too many LEAs were not fulfilling their roles of supporting vulnerable schools.

"We must move to a situation where schools serving disadvantaged communities can look to their LEAs to provide back-up," he said.

Where LEAs were failing in that role, they were simply wasting money that could be better spent in schools.

"LEAs typically hold back around 20% of the money the Government spends on schools. If that is being used to good effect, fine.

"If not, schools are being denied money that could make a crucial difference in the classroom.

"The overall message is disturbing. There are too many serious weaknesses in too many local education authorities."

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See also:
22 Oct 99 |  Education
Education chief quits ahead of inspection
09 Dec 99 |  Education
Car workers to renovate schools
06 Nov 99 |  Education
Haringey angered by privatisation threat
26 Nov 99 |  Education
Private firm to run Islington's schools
15 Nov 99 |  Education
Warning for failing authorities

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