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Accentuate the poll's positives

I WAS disappointed that The TES seems to have strayed from its normal objective and balanced reporting on the issue of privatisation (TES, January 28).

The total number of returns in your survey of secondary heads was only 153. Of these, one in 10 (a grand total of 15 schools) want local education authorities abolished. Does this really justify the sub-heading "The tide is turning against LEAs"?

Throughout the coverage there is a loose use of the terms "privatisation" and "private enterprise". Many schools, and indeed many LEAs, work happily with the private sector. Indeed, for any delegated budget, which from September will be at least 80 per cent of each school's total budget, the freedom is already there for schools to buy from the private sector under local management arrangements.

The TES has fallen heavily into the "half-empty" rather than "half-full" syndrome. On page 22, in the privatisation Briefing section, there is a bar chart of how LEAs are rated on five key functions. In all five areas the combination of good and adequate responses vastly outweighs the poor responses: by at worst three to one and at best 10 to one.

This doesn't prevent the text throughout the various articles that are based on this survey using the negative minority "poor" percentages rather than the positive majority "good" ones.

Finally, there is a reference on page 21 to one-third of the LEAs that have so far been inspected having had weaknesses identified. Far from being another stick to beat LEAs with, could anyone that has been inspected expect not to have any weaknesses identified? The issue, surely, is how many and how serious are those weaknesses. You would be hard pushed to find one-third of schools with no weaknesses that needed following up.

Nobody minds an open debate on these issues, but it needs to be professionally argued with credible evidence to back it up.

Jackie Strong


Society of Education Officers

Manchester House

84-86 Princess Street, Manchester

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