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'Clear headroom' for Edinburgh to do better

IN the phrase with which the new regime in charge of the inspectorate has become identified, the latest report on an education authority has concluded that Edinburgh City Council has "clear headroom and capacity for further improvement".

But the report acknowledges "some major strengths" and has judged the city's performance to be very good in five areas and good in six. This places it in joint fifth position in the unofficial TES Scotland "league table" alongside North Ayrshire and Angus.

Weaknesses highlighted tend to be those which HMI focuses on in most of its reports - quality of checks on school performance and the drive for continuous improvement (only three of the 17 authorities inspected so far have received the top mark of very good in both these areas).

But the inspectorate's survey of headteacher opinion suggests that Edinburgh has some way to go in convincing secondary schools that it is doing enough to help them improve the quality of education. While 85 per cent of heads of pre-school centres and 82 per cent of primary heads thought so, only 69 per cent of secondary heads and 50 per cent of special school heads had this confidence.

The verdict on attainment shows a mixed performance, although the major deficiencies are those regularly highlighted by HMI - aspects of 5-14 and S1-S2 where some targets had not been met. The performance of lower-attaining pupils in secondary schools also needed to be improved and attainment at Higher level varied too much.

The inspectors acknowledged that the education department had a "support and challenge" policy for schools but this had not made a sufficient impact at the time of the inspection, "particularly in relation to providing more challenge to school performance". There had to be more consistency of practice.

Leadership and management of the education department is judged to be good.

There was effective team-working at the top and Roy Jobson, the director of education, is commended for his "listening and responsive management style" and for establishing a climate of trust and co-operation which was appreciated by headteachers.

Ewan Aitken, the council's executive member for education, is praised for providing "clear direction and high-profile leadership".

Mr Jobson said the points for action outlined in the report "present no surprises as they are all areas we had already identified through our own performance monitoring and service planning processes".

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