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The Ridings to stay open under new head

The Education Secretary, Gillian Shephard, decided this week that the failing Ridings school in Halifax can remain open under its new head.

But Mrs Shephard stressed that the possibility of being taken over by a "hit squad" would remain until she had "clear and unequivocal evidence" of recovery. However, as a spokesman for the Office for Standards in Education made clear, there is nothing unusual about this. It would be unprecedented for a school to be taken out of special measures after only two months; failing schools normally get six months to implement their action plan before a progress inspection is made by OFSTED.

What is unique is the speed at which The Ridings and Calderdale must work. The action plans had to be drawn up in half the normal time.

Peter Flower, assistant director of policy at Calderdale, said that the LEA was puzzled by the contrast between the mainly positive feedback they have had from OFSTED, and the tone of Mrs Shephard's statement on Monday in which she said: "the local authority has only itself to blame for all this".

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