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Borders team praised in wake of pound;3.9m scandal

Glenn Rodger, director of education and lifelong learning in Scottish Borders, and his team are another directorate which will be happy with HMI this week.

The council has made "significant progress from what had been a very low base", inspectors say in a report following up their initial visit three years ago. That had taken place against a backdrop of a pound;3.9 million overspend in the education budget, which led to a senior official being jailed for fraud and the resignations of the director of education and the council convener.

The chief executive and councillors have also been given a pat on the back for demonstrating "determination to restore confidence in the education functions of the council after a period of unprecedented turmoil".

In addition to the education inspectorate, the council faced detailed investigations by Audit Scotland and the education committee of the last Parliament.

Mr Rodger is praised for having "quickly gained the confidence of his own team and elected members".

He is said to have given a strong lead in taking action on the recommendations of the first HMI report. After inevitable delays, the report states, the point has now been reached where the authority is working well with its schools to improve performance. Communication and consultation with schools had become much better.

The inspectors were particularly impressed with the way councillors and officials are now working together. "Elected members were giving a stronger lead on education and reported that they had received very good briefings and support from the director and his team.

"Senior officers now made contributions to corporate activities and were committed to fulfilling their responsibilities for the effective management and improvement of the service.

"They had undertaken appropriate financial training and were receiving some intensive staff development in managing programmes. As a result, leadership and management of educational services had undergone considerable improvements."

The inspectors found that even the management of resources, one of the key weaknesses at the heart of the education department's previous troubles, had improved. But the council was still struggling to achieve its best value targets - closing schools, in other words.

The HMI now wants the authority to switch its concentration from internal reforms to driving up attainment in its schools which has fallen in some cases. Overall, exam results are above the national average but they no longer outstrip the average for similar councils.

The council has been asked to submit a report on its progress by October, when HMI will decide if a third visit is needed.

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