Mersey beats off private threat;In brief;News;News and opinion

10th December 1999 at 00:00
Mersey beats off private threat Radical changes in Liverpool have persuaded ministers not to sell off its education services.

Clare Dean reports.

LIVERPOOL hung onto its education service this week after making drastic changes which include appointing a new chief executive, education director and shedding five out of six of its senior manag- ers.

Its education department has heen relocated, streamlined from five to three services and 16 per cent of its staff have gone so far.

More are expected to go by Christ- mas as the council scrambles to improve the quality of its services.

Literacy and numeracy results were much improved last summer and there is a feeling in the city that education is now being taken seriously by the council.

Headteachers are optimistic and will welcome this week's stay of execution for the local authority, effectively now placed on proba- tion for the next nine months.

There will be a contract between the council and its schools y the first of its kind y outlining the cost and level of services heads can expect to receive And there will be a monitoring board, chaired by Professor Simon Lee, principal of Liverpool Hope College.

Monthly reports on the service will be sent to Education Secretary David Blunkett and the Office for Standards in Education will re-in- spect in September.

Only then will the Government decide whether the work of the monitoring board is over.

The city's problems came to national prominence in the sum- mer, with the publication of an inspection report suggesting major deficiencies in the running of the education servtce.

Since then the chief education officer Frank Cogley has taken early retirement and between 30 to 40 other staff have taken volun tary early retirement.

Heads have been seconded to key posts within the authority which now has three departments instead of five. The new ones are school effectiveness, education sup- port, strategy and resources.

Schools standards minister Estelle Morris was in Liverpool yesterday meeting heads. She told The TES: 'There has been a huge sea change in the city both in style and substance. Without all the changes the city has made, we would have out-sourced some or all of the service."

Colin Hilton, the city's new edu- cation and lifelong learning direc- tor, took up his post on December Mr Hilton, 44, has been director of education and leisure at nearby St Helen's for the past three years.

He has been appointed on an open-ended contract and believes that his service must work to raise the quality of life for everyone in Liverpool. 'The onus is on the council to have focus and vision.

Lifelong learning has to be at the heart of the economic re-genera- tion of the city."

FACTFILE: Liverpool

* Liverpool has very high levels of deprivation with 37 per cent of households living in poverty compared to 17 per cent nationally.

* Double the national average of people live in unfit homes and many children in the city are malnourished.

* At the start of this term, 11 Liverpool schools were in special measures.

Five have since come out.

* The church has a strong influence on education in the city with four out of every 10 pupils educated in a voluntary-aided school.

* Liverpool has six nurseries, 157 primary schools, 34 secondaries, 21 special schools (ncludng a hospital school) and four pupil-referral units. Take up of further education is low.

* The city has one of the highest percentages of pupils educated in special schools in England.

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