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Charter Mark successes

Nearly half the schools and colleges which applied for the Government's Charter Mark were successful this year, compared to just over a quarter in 1995, but the number applying fell from 102 to 88 despite a record 323 public sector institutions which achieved the award, 99 more than last year.

The Charter Mark, now in its fifth year, is open to schools and hospitals, as well as local government departments and the police, which make a significant contribution to customer care. The awards will be presented in London on Monday.

Zyg Kowalczyk, the awards' project manager, said the Charter Mark fulfilled a need that the Office for Standards in Education did not. It offered schools the chance to shine in non-academic areas as it concentrated on seeing how the school treated parents and pupils as consumers, whereas OFSTED concentrated on the curriculum and achievement, he said.

Assessors had already noted improvements in complaints procedures and in schools implementing bullying policies rather than paying lip service to them.

The relatively small number of applications from education might be explained by the conservative nature of schools, Mr Kowalczyk said, but those which had entered for the award found it useful for team-building. Local government had been hostile to the scheme at first, but now used it to test services.

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