Heads' complaints drive director to quit

4th February 2000 at 00:00
Sandwell's education chief resigns as inspectors hear of a communication breakdown. Warwick Mansell reports

A DIRECTOR of education is stepping down after publicly taking responsibility for a "lack of trust" headteachers claimed had developed between the authority and its schools.

Stuart Gallacher wrote to headteachers in Sandwell on Monday saying he accepted the blame for a break-down in communication which several heads had told inspectors had developed.

The heads' concerns were voiced during last week's re-inspection of the authority, triggered after a 1998 Office for Standards in Education visit identified serious flaws in the west Midlands authority's education service.

The letter to headteachers said: "The majority view that headteachers have expressed to the inspectors is that they have a number of serious concerns, including the level of communication between the LEA and themselves.

"While I may disagree with the basis of that response, as a widely-held belief on the part of the headteachers it is an important issue that the authority must respond to. As such, I believe it is imperative that I should accept full responsibility for that lack of trust that now apparently exists between schools and the LEA.

"After 10 years, I am clearly deeply saddened thatmy association with the borough has to end in this way. However, in all honour I do not believe there can be any alternative."

Mr Gallacher is expected to remain with the council until a successor is appointed. The terms of his leaving have yet to be worked out, said a council spokeswoman. The inspection report is expected later this month.

Meanwhile, the chief education officer and chief executive of Waltham Forest - visited by inspectors this term - are both to leave the north London council.

CEO Andrew Lockhart, 55, will retire in March while chief executive Alan Tobias will take early retirement in the summer. However, a council spokeswoman said departures were connected to management reorganisation, and not the imminent OFSTED report.

Mr Gallacher is the latest in a series of education directors to step down in the light of negative inspection findings. Last June, Frank Cogley, Liverpool's CEO, took early retirement after inspectors found the authority was failing its schools.

Leicester's Tom Warren left on the day an OFSTED report was published saying the authority lacked the expertise to raise standards. And Gordon Mott, director of education in Southwark, took early retirement after a re inspection found that schools had lost trust in the authority.

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