Education: Hackney pupils pay for politicians' failure

Hackney has set new standards of disorganisation and bureaucratic waste, Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools, said yesterday. Judith Judd, Education Editor, looks at the reasons behind the Government's decision to send in a team to rescue the London borough's education system.

Children in Hackney are left roaming the streets because they have not been found school places. Yet there are empty places in schools.

The authority fails in its legal duty to monitor its most vulnerable children, those with special educational needs.

Hackney is characterised by "a failure of political will", where squabbling councillors have let their own disagreements stand in the way of children's interests.

It has a bewildering array of policies and plans to improve schools but some of them contradict each other. In literacy there are five un-co- ordinated initiatives for raising standards.

It is an authority where "a significant number of services are in turmoil", whose organisation has been changed repeatedly and extensively.

While large numbers of pupils escape to schools outside the borough, at a cost of pounds 1.5m, only 132 come in from elsewhere.

In short, says the Office for Standards in Education report, the authority is in disarray.

Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, said: "This is an education authority which is failing to meet its statutory responsibilities. As a result children are being put at risk."

Ministers will take powers to intervene directly in local education authorities in an education bill this autumn. "I have no doubt," said Mr Byers, "that if we had the legal powers to intervene directly, those powers would have been exercised."

Instead, he invited Hackney to accept his offer of an improvement team to turn round the authority by next summer.

The inspectors' report notes that the borough is one of the poorest places in Western Europe. It has the highest proportion of pupils on free school meals in the country and, if the refugee population were to be replicated across the country, the total would be 5 million.

"But," Mr Woodhead said, "in these circumstances, disorganisation, absence of strategy, waste and inefficiency are all the more inexcusable.

"For some Hackney children, school is the one chance of an escape to a better life."

Tony Elliston, Hackney's chief executive, said the council welcomed the Ofsted report and improvement team plans. "The education offered to Hackney children is inadequate. An unacceptable number of our schools is failing."

Three of the four parties on the council have said that they will work with the team. But one group in the ruling coalition said that it might not. David Phillips, education spokesman for Hackney New Labour, a body of councillors expelled from the Labour Party, warned that they might not co-operate fully with the team unless it worked with and not against the council's management structures.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test