Failure blamed on former director

George Waddell, former education director in Perth and Kinross, is blamed for the lack of direction and leadership in the council's education and children's services department, councillors were informed on Wednesday.

A caustic review of the department by Maggi Allan, retired education director in South Lanarkshire, catalogues a long series of management shortcomings that led ultimately to Mr Waddell's early departure last summer.

Mrs Allan's findings, based on extensive interviews across the council, reveal considerable divisions between sections of the department that was merged in 2000. Education and the children and families dimension of social work merged first, followed by arts and cultural services two years later.

It has not been a success and Mr Waddell is criticised for concentrating on the school side and in particular the secondary sector. But at the same time, he is also slated for failing to arrange systematic policies and practices for raising attainment.

Even attainment in the authority, which is often described as "above national average" masks under-performance, Mrs Allan states in her report tabled before the council's lifelong learning committee.

"It is a statement which does not convey a sense of high aspiration or drive to do better. Nor does it acknowledge that in almost every indicator for the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, Perth and Kinross schools consistently perform below the levels of comparator authorities.

"It also fails to recognise the low level of performance of some pupils in secondary schools, this seriously impairing their opportunities to progress to further or higher education and of becoming economically active in adult life," the review goes on.

Mrs Allan, who chairs the Scottish Executive's curriculum review, points out that there is no authority-wide strategy to raise attainment. Previous plans were undermined because staff in the school improvement team were often diverted from their core function to deal with complaints from parents. It was also difficult to track individual pupils because of conflict between three different management information systems within the council.

Among other concerns, the department had not done enough to channel resources to schools with most need and push initiatives across different sections - such as integrated community schools.

Mrs Allan proposes a revised structure for the department and the appointment of a new director in the spring. Len McConnell is currently acting director.

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