Ofsted decries role of education chiefs

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The Independent Online

Even the best-run local education authorities are failing to improve pupils' performance, Ofsted, the Government's education standards watchdog, says.

Even the best-run local education authorities are failing to improve pupils' performance, Ofsted, the Government's education standards watchdog, says.

The first analysis of the performance of all 150 local education authorities in England concludes that there is no evidence the performance of pupils in well-run authorities is any better than in those which are badly managed.

Inspectors found 41 of the 150 were unsatisfactory or worse, 80 were average and 29 were good or very good in the way they managed the education service. But the inspectors' analysis of the impact the 150 have had on standards will be seized on by opponents of local education authorities to say their responsibility for improving children's results should be removed.

The report concludes: "It appears there is no direct relationship between the quality of a local education authority and the standards reached by its pupils in core subjects at the age of 11. Standards are higher in advantaged authorities even where a local education authority gives poor support to schools. Good local education authorities in disadvantaged circumstances have not yet overcome the effects on pupils of that disadvantage."

A similar picture emerges at GCSE, with inspectors saying: "Standards have not generally risen faster in good local education authorities. Perhaps more significant is that pupils achieve high results in at least one of the local education authorities in the most socio-economically advantaged group despite the weaknesses of their local education authority."

A reinspection of 18 of the worst authorities showed 11 had made improvements since their first report, five remained the same and two – Sandwell and Southwark in south London – had deteriorated. (Since then, both have satisfied inspectors they are recovering.)

The report also criticises an "attitudinal" problem of some LEAs, who refuse to see their pupils and parents as customers. And only one in eight councils was giving good support to ethnic-minority pupils.

Those considered unsatisfactory or poor "faced strategic issues such as budgetary problems, excessive surplus places, a high percentage of failing schools or perniciously low expectations in the community".

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