Struggling two making satisfactory progress

Sandwell in the West Midlands and Southwark in south London have been named as the only two education authorities whose performance slipped following an inspection.

The rest of the18 authorities re-inspected following an unsatisfactory first report managed to improve, the Office for Standards in Education reveals. Of these, 11 improved to a satisfactory or better level. Five remained the same.

Ofsted chief David Bell said that the second wave of education authority inspections, which began in January, showed that both Sandwell and Southwark had now improved to a satisfactory level.

Southwark was ordered by the Department for Education and Skills to contract out the management of most schools services to a private firm following its second inspection in 1999.

That report found the authority, working in some of the most deprived areas in England, had regressed since a report the previous year. The inspection highlighted a breakdown of trust with schools and said that they lacked confidence in Southwark.

But improvements were made when all education functions apart from early years and adult learning were handed over to private company Atkins Education in April of last year.

The latest report in July said the overall functions of the LEA were now satisfactory, although some weaknesses did remain.

Sandwell, described by inspectors as being the most deprived borough in the West Midlands, was identified as having serious weakness in an inspection in 1998. A re-inspection in 2000 reported the LEA had regressed in vital respects.

The authority also underwent a major restructuring following its second report. A new management team was appointed in September last year, and when inspectors reported in July they said: "Progress has been considerable in a relatively short space of time."

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