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LIVERPOOL SCHOOLS NEED BETTER SUPPORT FROM LEA, SAY INSPECTORS

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Liverpool City Council's claim to give education a high priority is ...
Liverpool City Council's claim to give education a high priority is

not borne out by evidence, say Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) in a

report published by the Office for Standards in Education

(OFSTED).

The evidence which undermines the claim includes:

- education spending below the Standard Spending Assessment (SSA);

- the poor condition of school buildings;

- lack of action over surplus places;

- inadequate support for schools in raising standards;

In a highly critical report following inspection of the functions of

Liverpool Education Authority by OFSTED and the Audit Commission, HMI

say that a history of weak political support combined with poor

planning and delivery of services by officers cast doubt on the LEA's

ability to meet its targets. The report says that Liverpool schools

share this lack of confidence in the authority.

Despite the very serious difficulties faced by schools in a city with

the highest concentration of deprivation in England and the low

overall standards of achievement, inspectors acknowledge that school

standards are improving slightly faster than the national rate.

However, except for its support for literacy in primary schools,

'the LEA has made too little discernible contribution to that

improvement,' the report says. 'Many schools' successes have been

achieved largely independently of the LEA. Many schools have had to

take the initiative because of insufficient or ineffective

consultation and support from the LEA.'

The report says the LEA has some strengths, including support for

numeracy and literacy in primary schools, support for school

governors and for financial and personnel management.

But weaknesses outweigh strengths. In particular inadequate

management of key services such as Quality Assurance and Education

Welfare and lack of support for schools causing concern are serious

deficiencies.

Chief inspector Chris Woodhead said:

'This report reveals some grave weaknesses, not least the failure of

political will to support schools as they deserve. The condition of

too many school buildings in Liverpool encapsulates a history of

neglect.

'The need is to tackle deprivation, not compound it through waste or

a failure to address the key issue, which is raising standards.

Urgent action is required to ensure that Liverpool's schools receive

the service they desperately need.'

NOTES

1. The Inspection of Liverpool Local Education Authority is available

free of charge from the OFSTED Publications Centre PO Box 6927,

London E3 3NZ. Tel: 0171 510 0180.

2. The inspection was carried out by OFSTED with the assistance of

the Audit Commission under Section 38 of the Education Act 1997.

3. The inspection, which took place in January, February and March

1999, was concerned with the extent to which the LEA was meeting

its responsibilities in relation to schools and was making

efficient use of funding to do so.

4. The inspection of Liverpool was brought forward in the inspection

schedule by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment

and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector because of concerns about:

* the LEA's support for literacy;

* aspects of the provision of school places;

* support for schools in special measures and with serious

weaknesses.

In addition to these and other standard themes, the inspection

focused on:

* support to schools on attendance;

* school places, admissions and reorganisations;

* school premises.

5. Following the usual format of OFSTED inspections of LEAs, there

were two stages to the inspection. The first involved examination

of data, documentation and systems within the Education Department

and included interviews with a wide range of Council members and

staff and with representatives of the LEA's partner organisations.

The second stage included visits to 28 schools to follow up issues

with headteachers and other staff and the circulation of a

detailed questionnaire to all the schools in the city.

6. OFSTED is a non-ministerial government department established

under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for

the inspection of all schools in England. Its staff include Her

Majesty's Inspectors (HMI), who draw on inspection evidence to

report on good practice in schools and on a wide range of

educational issues.

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