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Walsall local education authority (LEA) is failing to provide ...
Walsall local education authority (LEA) is failing to provide

effective support for some of its most vulnerable children, according

to a report published today by the Office for Standards in Education.

The LEA has made poor progress overall since its last inspection, in

1999, and the performance of some of its functions has deteriorated.

Nevertheless, the LEA has had some success in rebuilding

relationships with schools and in creating a culture focused on

school improvement. Since the appointment of the contractor by the

secretary of state for education and skills, rapid progress has been

made in restructuring the services to support schools and in the

quality of service delivery. However, inspectors say that these

improvements are fragile in view of the weaknesses at the corporate


The LEA's overall capacity and capability for further improvement are

poor for the following reasons:

- the poor leadership of elected members

- the insufficient pace and record of improvement to date

- the newness of the membership of the senior management team and, as

a team, the lack of an established pattern and track record of

strategic management

- the lack of embedded, consistent and confident budget management,

planning and evaluation of services

The inspectors conclude that future progress is dependent upon the

extensive package of support now in place, following the Audit

Commission's recent corporate governance inspection. OFSTED will

establish a programme of frequent monitoring to check whether

sufficient progress is being made.

Chief inspector Mike Tomlinson said:

'The progress made by Walsall LEA has been very disappointing. The

LEA needs to take swift action on the recommendations in this report

in order to help provide the schools and pupils of Walsall with the

support they deserve.'


The report can be downloaded from the OFSTED website .

This is the second OFSTED inspection report on Walsall LEA. The

first report was published in December 1999. Inspectors found that

the LEA was failing to discharge some if its key responsibilities

adequately. In July 2001 the secretary of state for education and

skills appointed SercoQAA to run school improvement and strategic

management in Walsall LEA and to work in partnership with the LEA

on the remaining education services it provides.

The inspection was based on a range of material, which included

self-evaluation undertaken by the LEA, and data, some of which was

provided by the LEA. That material also included school inspection

information; HMI monitoring reports and audit reports;

documentation from, and discussions with, LEA officers and members;

focus groups of headteachers and governors; staff in other

departments at that local authority; and diocesan representatives.

Other agencies and partners also participated in focus groups. A

questionnaire, seeking views on aspects of the work of the LEA, was

circulated to all 129 schools, and its results were considered by

the inspection team. The response rate to the questionnaire was 65

per cent. The response rate was 68 per cent.

A press release from the local authority follows:

Walsall Education Ofsted report

Walsall Education today responded to criticisms levelled at it in Ofsted's report.

The authority said it welcomed the many recommendations made in the detailed report, however it stressed that work was already under way on many of the actions.

It also said that a great deal of work had been done since the highly critical Ofsted report in 1999 and it was frustrated that this had not been fully acknowledged in the most recent inspection. The LEA had prepared much of the ground for the private contractor Serco/QAA who Ofsted judged had made rapid progress despite being operational for only a few months prior to the re-inspection.

Leader of the council, Tom Ansell, said he was pleased that there had been an all-party approach at the education committee and that progress had been made on school improvement but more work was needed on social inclusion.

Eileen Pitt, Liberal Democrat group spokesman on education, said good progress had been made on improving the culture and relationship with the school community but accepted that more change was needed rapidly.

Ken Worley, Labour group spokesman, said: 'We are deeply concerned about issues raised in the report particularly in the areas of special education, social inclusion, and the lack of integration with other departments. We will be calling for a radical review of the education Department, along with an investigation of the means by which elected members are informed of trends and data, to enable them to carry out effective monitoring and scrutiny of both external contracts, and those areas that remain in the control of the council.'

Chris Green, director of education and community services, said he welcomed the recommendations made in this Ofsted report. The council will work constructively with the government to appoint appropriate consultants to advise on the way forward.

But he added: 'We have put in a great deal of work over the past twelve months to cover an enormous amount of ground. Too much time was lost during the original intervention to allow the achievement of the outcomes required for the inspection. There is still much to do but we have been on the right track. We have installed many fundamental structures and procedures which, as yet, have not been given time to bear fruit. It is frustrating that Ofsted has not acknowledged this in a number of their judgements.'

Walsall Education has been criticised for its lack of progress in special educational needs provision and dealing with social inclusion. However, action to improve in these areas include strategic initiatives across corporate and partnership groups and the setting of realistic budgets for 2002/03 in order to address previous shortfalls.

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