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Judged to be without a weakness

Inspectors failed to find a fault in the deprived borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, reports Clare Dean

HAMMERSMITH and Fulham, ranked as one of the poorest areas in the country, has one of the best education services.

Very well-run with an innovative council and strong leadership from its education director, Christine Whatford, the west London borough enjoys the confidence of its 56 schools, according to the Office for Standards in Education.

Inspectors could find no major weaknesses in the Labour-run council, yet that's not to say the borough, one of the smallest and most densely populated in London, is without problems.

Its schools operate in circumstances described by OFSTED as difficult: a highly mobile pupil population with many refugees.

And inspectors admitted in their new report on the boroughwhere the Blairs send three of their children: "In this context it is difficult to raise standards."

Children's attainment on entry to school is below the national average and pupil mobility is high. In nearly two-thirds of primaries more than 30 per cent of pupils at key stage 2 are recent arrivals.

Standards have improved, say inspectors, but are still below the national average by the time pupils leav primary school.

At GCSE, the proportion of pupils attaining five good passes has increased by 13.6 per cent in three years - winning the borough the accolade of the most improved at this level.

Attendance, although improving, is below the national average and the number of exclusions unacceptably high.

Hammersmith and Fulham scrapped its committee-based structure almost two years ago, replacing it with a cabinet, headed by a mayor.

Education has consistently been a high priority, benefiting from generous funding.

The only real criticism of the borough in the 30-page report was the lack of support for information and communication technology in the curriculum and the big budget balances built up by schools, amounting to pound;3.7 million at the end of March last year.

The reports can be read at

www.ofsted.gov.uk Strengths

monitoring, supporting and challenging schools

financial advice to schools

support for literacy, numeracy, curriculum initiatives

support for social inclusion and pupil behaviour

support for school management and governance

personnel

financial advice to schools

collaboration with external agencies

Weaknesses

no major weaknesses

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