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No light in inspections tunnel

Susan Young finds seven kinds of intelligence and at least two agendas operating at the North of England conference. The increasing backlog in primary school inspections is unlikely to be solved by the Government's latest attempt to attract local authority teams, it was warned this week.

Education Secretary Gillian Shephard announced financial changes at the North of England conference which, she hoped, would bring forward more bids from local authority inspectors. "From April any extra income you get from Office for Standards in Education contracts will not harm you in terms of the total school budget delegation requirements, nor in terms of capping," she said.

Until now the running costs of inspection teams have had to be delegated to schools under local management.

But Alan Parker, education officer of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, doubted whether it would be financially worthwhile for LEA teams to build up staff and tender for more work unless they were guaranteed contracts for a certain period. Moreover, councils already had so many worries about capping that the inspections concession was very small-scale.

Mrs Shephard also announced that the Department for Education is establishing a consultative group of local authorities and other organisations to pool ideas on turning around failing schools.

This was in addition to research being done by Ofsted on factors indicating schools with serious weaknesses.

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