OFSTED will be returning to Lincolnshire after finding 'critical' weaknesses,
reports Warwick Mansell
ONE of England's largest counties has an unacceptable number of weak schools, say inspectors.
Concern over the authority is such that Office for Standards in Education has ordered a re-inspection within the next 18 months to check that it is putting things right.
A total of 86 of Lincolnshire's 376 schools are on its own list as causing concern. Even this could be an underestimate, inspectors say.
They say heads told them that the authority had been setting schools "unrealistic" improvement targets.
Primary heads told inspectors that the authority had miscalculated their schools' goals for 1999-2000.
Two to three weeks after being set test targets, each school had had that figure raised by three per cent, because the council had underestimated improvements needed to hit targets for the whole of Lincolnshire.
This "considerably weakened" one of the authority's major strategies to raise expectations, inspectors conclude.
Monitoring overall of schools in Lincolnshire - a predominantly rural county which has 15 grammar schools and 34 secondary mderns - was "unsatisfactory".
This was compounded by the fact that the education authority lacked an effective central pupil database.
Although results at all levels were in line with national averages and those of similar councils, there was clear inspection evidence of under-performance, even in the grammar schools.
Conservative-controlled Lincolnshire is praised for delegating 88 per cent of its local schools budget, the highest of any county council.
Inspectors found support for the literacy and numeracy strategies was good, officers and members worked well together and support for schools identified as failing by OFSTED was good.
However, the report says there were "critical" weaknesses in monitoring, coupled with "unsatisfactory" school management support and surplus secondary school places.
Delegation and promotion of school autonomy.
Support for literacy and
Support for special needs pupils
Support for schools' use of data.
Monitoring and challenging schools.
Support for school
Support for information and communications technology