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Fourth from the top is miles better for Glasgow

IN its most unexpected and significant report on an education authority to date, the inspectorate has placed Glasgow fourth from top in the unofficial league table of performance rankings.

The city has long complained that its schools have never been given the credit they deserve for the progress pupils have made in the face of daunting social problems.

The inspectorate has clearly been impressed, although the city still says that inspectors have failed to recognise the extent of improved attainment among secondary pupils, denting the morale of staff struggling with hard to handle adolescent boys.

Its verdict follows the surprise early retirement of Ken Corsar, the director of education, who is being replaced in October by Ronnie O'Connor, director of social work and a former senior education official in the city. Mr Corsar, aged 56, leaves with a leadership endorsement from HMI.

He said: "The performance of secondary schools is at least as good, if not better, than improvements nationally and the secondary staffs' efforts should be recognised for that. This is only partially recognised in the report."

Mr Corsar believes there have been significant improvements in attainment over a three-year period in terms of Standard grade and Higher results and in reducing exclusions - down 13 per cent.

The city was awarded three very goods, seven goods and one fair, for measuring, monitoring and evaluating performance. Mr Corsar disputes that judgment and believes Glasgow should have been handed a better rating in line with that from Audit Scotland earlier this year, which graded the authority as good on evaluation. Inspectors failed to appreciate the extent of the work in a city of Glasgow's size, he says.

HMI found that 60 per cent of the population live in the 10 per cent of postcodes that are most deprived nationally. Fifty-two of the 90 worst areas in Scotland are in Glasgow which has the highest proportion of children in care - 17 per cent against a national average of 9.4 per cent.

Almost one in three households with children are headed by a lone parent, while free meal entitlement is at 41 per cent compared with the national average of 16 per cent.

Mr Corsar said: "Thirty of the other 31 authorities are not close on any of the socio-economic indicators. HMI accept that but they continue to compare Glasgow against national averages in performance."

Comparisons of key Higher results, for example, are based on percentages of S4 pupils - yet many leave school early in a city with plenty of opportunities, the director points out.

Mr Corsar argues that upgrading the city's 29 secondaries, combined with the latest high-tech equipment, will bring further progress.

Leader, page 18

IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

One of the more remarkable findings in HMI's report is that inspectors were unable to draw any meaningful comparisons with other councils on key socio-economic indicators because of the depth of deprivation. Only Edinburgh came remotely near on certain aspects.

HMI was forced to devise new criteria besides free school meal entitlement, including factors such as families claiming unemployment benefit, the extent of learning disabilities, the number of looked-after children, number of non-whites, the proportion in the lowest council tax bands and families in substandard housing.

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