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Quality of leadership delivers the goods for Aberdeen

Aberdeen has sailed through its inspection and is providing a good education service, HMI says. The city emerges with 10 goods and one fair - for consultation - in the table of quality indicators.

Pam MacDonald, Liberal Democrat education convener, said she was delighted with the positive tone. "It expresses appreciation for the quality of leadership and support which the director and senior officers give to our schools. We have an absolute commitment to improve consultation within the service and with the public."

The inspection report says that John Stodter, now titled corporate director for learning and leisure in the revamped education service, provides "thoughtful and perceptive leadership" and has a clear understanding of educational issues and national priorities. Education is "well led".

HMI also singles out Alex Hunter, head of school planning, improvement and quality assurance, for giving a strong lead in ensuring schools reach the standards expected of them.

Working relationships between senior managers and headteachers were found to be generally good, although just over half of primary and special education heads agree that managers recognise and celebrate success.

"There was a need to further promote a sense of partnership with headteachers and staff below headteacher level and further strengthen the sense of teamwork among key staff in the service," HMI states.

The pre-inspection survey indicated that 75 per cent of heads were confident the authority was helping schools to improve the quality of education but this ranged from 97 per cent in pre-school partnership centres to just 33 per cent in secondary. An even smaller proportion of secondary heads - 17 per cent - agreed that consultation with them was effective.

The inspectors emphasise that the authority has more work to do in the secondary sector to offer more challenge.

In contrast, senior officers are said to have a good knowledge of standards and quality in the schools they are responsible for and the authority was effective in following up school inspections. Standards of attainment in the city, which last May changed hands from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, are generally in line with national levels and improving at broadly similar rates.

"The education authority's work on value-added was a notable strength," the inspectors report. Data based on the Performance Indicators in Primary (PIPS) initiative helped to compare the progress of individual pupils, groups and classes and benchmark the attainment of schools with similar socio-economic backgrounds. But some heads say they need more training to make the data effective.

Mr Stodter and his team are commended for taking sometimes tough decisions on school closures and special education and for very effective staff development for teachers. The city is praised, too, for its support for music and the arts and health promotion, and for taking a lead in partial immersion French in primary.

Overall, the service is said to add value to most aspects of schools' work.

In a gentle reminder to press on, inspectors add: "While standards of attainment were rising, continued effort should be focused on increasing the rates of improvement."

They promise to return in two years to check.

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