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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 11:50 GMT
Inspectors issue 'urgent warning'

Chris Woodhead's inspectors have criticised a series of authorities
Sandwell education authority has been ordered to make urgent improvements to its services to schools.

A highly-critical report from inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education said the authority had "failed to maintain trust and partnership" with its schools.

This could lead to the privatisation of services - depending on the advice that emerges from a team of private consultants which is to be sent into the authority.

This report paints a hugely disappointing picture for Sandwell's parents and children.

Chris Woodhead, Chief Inspector of Schools in England
The School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, confirmed that the consultants undertaking the "diagnostic" work in the local authority could propose "outsourcing services".

Inspectors have highlighted a number of weaknesses in the authority, relating to school improvement, support for head teachers, funding for special needs, surplus places and curriculum services.

"This report paints a hugely disappointing picture for Sandwell's parents and children.

"Adequate progress by this LEA has not been forthcoming, and urgent action is now needed to ensure that Sandwell's schools receive the support they need," said the chief inspector for schools in England, Chris Woodhead.

Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris says 'outsourcing' could follow consultants' report
And, raising the prospect of privatisation, the inspection report concluded that the local authority would not be able to make the necessary improvements "unassisted".

Sandwell is the latest in a series of local authorities which have been criticised by inspectors.

Leeds, Rotherham annd Sheffield education authorities were all criticised by inspectors earlier this year - with Leeds facing the prospect of privatisation of its services.

Private contractors have been appointed to run two education services in the London borough of Hackney and almost all of Islington's education services.

Consultants have also been sent in to draw up privatisation proposals in Liverpool, Southwark, Haringey, Walsall, Leicester East and Bristol following bad Ofsted reports.

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02 Feb 00 | Education
Intervention in failing authorities
14 Jan 00 | Education
Top head for privatised authority
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