Bid to stave off hit squad invasion.

7th August 1998 at 01:00
A TEAM of specialists is being enlisted to save a Yorkshire education authority from losing power to a Government-backed hit squad.

Top names are being approached to help turn around the authority, after the latest Office for Standards in Education report found management was ineffective. The Government has given it six weeks to come up with an acceptable action plan.

Calderdale has failed to address five out of 10 recommendations made by inspectors more than a year ago, after an initial inspection returned a damning report. Progress on three was deemed satisfactory. Only two were good.

A policy and resources committee meeting this week asked the chief executive, Paul Sheehan, to put together a panel of experts to "show us how it should be done".

Mr Sheehan said: "Certain names are being suggested to us and we will choose from those available. They will be people who are significant in their field and who can bring to us the relevant expertise in those areas where outstanding action needs to be taken by the authority. "

Mr Sheehan thought Calderdale's problems were best solved locally. " We understand the situation and we will address it," he added.

Calderdale was put under the ministerial microscope after The Ridings, in Halifax, was temporarily closed down in a blaze of publicity about discipline problems.

The latest OFSTED report on the authority, published last week, found poor senior management and that officials had failed to address weaknesses. Education committee chairman, Helen Rivron, said she did not expect sackings.

"There is an awful lot that is going right in Calderdale. Our results are good, behaviour is good. This is a snapshot in time taken since previous reports," she said. However, the standards minister, Estelle Morris, said she would "not allow any LEA to fail in its duty to raise educational standards for the children in its charge".

"It is clear that efforts to improve standards across Calderdale are being undermined by an ineffective senior management team. I am therefore asking Calderdale to report to me by September 14 on how they plan to remedy the failings identified by OFSTED, including what specific action they will take."

If Calderdale fails to satisfy ministerial demands, it could become the first authority to succumb to new legislation which allows the Government to appoint an agent to run its schools.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, the LGA chairman said: "We will prove to the Government and the DFEE that when an LEA is having difficulties the best way to raise standards and deliver a first-class education system for pupils and parents is to allow local government to put its own house in order without a too heavy-handed approach from Government officials. "

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