Schools chief in charge of Ridings quits Education chief quits after report

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The Independent Online
A DIRECTOR of education resigned yesterday as councillors tried to head off the first government takeover of a failing local education authority.

Ian Jennings is to take early retirement "by mutual agreement" after a report on Calderdale, condemned two years ago for the collapse of discipline at the Ridings School in Halifax, West Yorkshire, attacked senior managers' lack of vision and leadership.

Last month, inspectors savaged the Labour-run council for a second time in 18 months after they found that it was failing in its duty to raise standards.

Estelle Morris, the Schools minister, said that efforts to improve education in Calder-dale were being undermined by bad management and warned that it could lose control of its schools.

She gave the council until Monday to draw up an action plan. Legislation, passed this summer, allows the Government to take over failing local authorities.

A report prepared by consultants, called in by the council's chief executive and published yesterday, paints a picture of councillors who spend hours debating trivial issues and officers forced to attend so many meetings that they cannot get anything done.

Schools have complained that they are treated with rudeness or indifference, and that their calls for help go unanswered.

The obsession with detailed interference in schools, says the report, "results in an out-dated and out-moded way of operating and exacerbates the frustration schools feel".

Simon Jenkin, former chief education officer in Devon and co-author of the report, says many people believe that councillors insist on so many meetings because they want to collect as much as possible from attendance allowances.

That perception may be unfair, he adds, but there should be changes in the way councillors are paid.

Mr Jenkin argues that "key senior staff lack any vision and sense of direction for the service ... a picture emerges to us of a department which is unwilling to change".

His report calls for a change of direction and ends by questioning whether Calderdale should continue to run its schools.

Its failure, he warns, would affect every local education authority in the country.

A statement from the council said: "Ian Jennings has considered his position and, in discussion with the authority, it has been agreed by all parties that it would be in the interests of the service that he take early retirement."

The decision will be put to the education committee tomorrow.

Helen Rivron, education committee chairwoman, said she was confident that the action plan would be accepted by ministers.

She added that schools were already being consulted about the plan.

Neil Fletcher, head of education at the Local Government Association, said: "There is still a mountain to climb for Calderdale in its bid to raise standards.

"Brave decisions must now be taken and I hope the council's education committee accepts the report at its meeting tomorrow."

t Another troubled council, Hackney in east London, has hired a private firm to help run a failing primary school.

The Centre for British Teachers, a non-profit making company that generates a substantial surplus on contracts, has appointed a head for Rams Episcopal primary school.

It will also advise the school on how to raise standards.

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