HMI goes west for added value

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
The top of the unofficial performance table for local authorities is developing a pronounced western bias. With eight "very goods" and three "goods" from HMI this week, Renfrewshire has moved into third spot.

The authority is behind South and North Lanarkshire of the 24 authorities put under the microscope so far - proving that, whatever their social problems, authorities in west central Scotland are rising to the challenge.

Yet again the inspectors stress the importance of effective leadership and praise Shelagh Rae, Renfrewshire's director of education and leisure services, for demonstrating "a strong and sustained commitment to improving the service and raising attainment in schools and other establishments".

Mrs Rae was also lauded for clear and effective thinking on education policy, listening to the views of others, taking difficult decisions when necessary and displaying high levels of competence in managing finance and resources.

Officials are said to have "a clear and positive impact" on their areas of responsibility, and earned 95 per cent support from headteachers for their "high level of commitment to the promotion of quality".

The director and her staff were also found to be making "a significant contribution to the work of the corporate management team in the authority and were fully involved in a range of working groups at corporate level".

Communication and consultation were another strength with a wide range of views being sought. But, while there were effective procedures for consulting with school boards, the authority has yet to gather the views of pupils in a systematic way.

The authority's progress was judged against what HMI calls a "frequently challenging socio-economic context". It is praised for "adding value to the work of schools by very effective policy development, well-integrated planning and implementation of improvements, and productive partnerships".

The result, the inspectorate says, is that attainment in primary schools and in the early and middle stages of secondary compares well or very well with comparator authorities and nationally.

While exam performance by the end of S5 was "broadly in line" with averages for similar councils and nationally, the authority is urged to do more to improve attainment at Higher and Advanced Higher levels.

That was one of only three points for action identified by HMI, the others being further reductions in exclusions and a tightening up of quality assurance processes.

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