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Saturday, 18 March, 2000, 02:30 GMT
Struggling council seeks private partner
Pupil
Southwark was deemed "failing" by inspectors
An inner-London education authority which has been heavily criticised by inspectors is seeking inspiration from a private sector partner.

The London Borough of Southwark's education service, which was branded a failure by inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education, is advertising for an outside company to help make improvements in its schools.

This "partnership" is the latest version of the government's attempts to use the private sector to kick-start the efforts of failing education authorities.

Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris: Private partner would take over education services
The authority says it is looking for an organisation which will bring "innovation, creativity and private sector expertise" to an education service which has been identified as struggling.

The proposed partnership, which would be anticipated to last seven years, will see the privatisation of some of the council's education services.

"It is likely that the partner will be invited to explore possibilities of delivering a range of Southwark local education authority's services, starting with the school improvement service," says the School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris.

Weaknesses

Southwark's chair of education, Patrick Kelly, says the arrangement would help to "sustain rapid improvement" in the borough's schools.

The inspection report on Southwark, published in December 1999, was one of the most critical of a local authority to have been published.

After critical inspection reports, local authorities including the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney have had services taken over by the private sector.

This week the prospect of outside intervention was raised in Sandwell, after inspectors found "serious weaknesses" there.

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

Private contractors have also 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, Haringey, Walsall, Leicester East and Bristol.

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16 Mar 00 | Education
Inspectors issue 'urgent warning'
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