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Born to run Bournemouth

South coast authority benefits from outstanding leadership, Medway is improving and North Lincolnshire is very good. Cherry Canovan reports

INSPECTORS have praised the "exceptional leadership" of Kabir Shaikh, Bournemouth's director of education, in a report on the South Coast authority.

The Office for Standards in Education said: "This is an ambitious and courageous local authority with a very strong shared vision and underpinning values."

The report continued: "This consensus is the fruit of principled, charismatic, intelligent and strategic leadership by the director and his team, backed by members."

Mr Shaikh said: "Bournemouth's uniqueness is the unanimity of its purpose. We are all united in the interest of Bournemouth's children, and with such a strong cause you are bound to succeed."

The authority's work drew praise from school standards minister Stephen Timms, who congratulated Bournemouth and called it an "exemplar authority".

Inspectors said the authority performed all its functions well, including support for school improvement, support for inclusion and strategic management.

They added: "The capacity of the LEA to improve is beyond doubt."

Meanwhile, energy, drive and effective leadership are helping Medway in Kent tackle its challenges, according to inspectors.

The report said: "The council is strongly customer-focused and has well-developed mechanisms for consulting the community. Many inherited difficulties in areas such as school places and buildings have been tackled progressively."

However, the authority was still facing problems, it said, noting that improvement rates for 11-year-olds were below the national average.

Performance of schools varied widely with more than a quarter underachieving when compared with like schools. Improvement was hampered by recruitment problems both in schools and within Medway.

But the inspectors said the authority's strengths greatly outweigh its weaknesses, and they were confident that it would be able to respond to the report's recommendations.

Another report found that North Lincolnshire was "a very good education authority with many strengths and no major weaknesses".

Inspectors said the authority had "capitalised on the advantages and minimised the disadvantages" of being a fairly small authority, building excellent relationships with schools and other stakeholders.

But they added that areas of relative weakness included variations in the quality of action planning and performance management arrangements across services.

There was also praise for elected members, who "take a keen interest in the performance of individual schools and take their responsibilities to individual children seriously". However, the inspectors added that their official scrutiny role was "underdeveloped".

BOURNEMOUTH

STRENGTHS:

* Strong leadership by senior officers and members

* Corporate planning

* Support for school management and self-evaluation

* Support for children in care

* Child protection

* Measures to combat social exclusion

* Provision of school places

NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE

Strengths

* Quality of leadership by senior officers

* Strategic planning

* Expertise and deployment of staff to support school improvement

* Support for literacy and numeracy

* Support for schools causing concern

* Working collaboratively with other services and agencies

MEDWAY

STRENGTHS:

* Support for early-years education

* Clarity and consistency of corporate plans

* Support to raise the attainment of young peoplein care

* Partnerships with external agencies, especially measures to combat the effects of social disadvantage

* Leadership of senior officers and advice given to elected members Weaknesses

* Implementation of strategy for special educational needs

* Strategy for supporting ethnic-minority pupils

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