New council cuts its teeth on tricky issues

18th February 2000 at 00:00
Inspectors find that schools are happy with Worcestershire but standards need to be raised, Geraldine Hackett reports.

WORCESTERSHIRE gives its schools good-quality services at a low cost, inspectors say.

In the 17 months since local government reorganisation split Herefordshire from Worcestershire, the small education management team has worked closely with the coalition ruling group of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors.

However, Office for Standards in Education inspectors say standards and aspirations in schools need to be raised. While schools serve a relatively well-to-do population, exam and test results are still around the national average. Maths and science results for 11-year-olds are below those in similar local authorities.

Spending on schools is close to the level recommended by the Government. Provision for the under-fives is a priority and the county spends less on post-16 education than most other councils. The budget allocates pound;2,404 per pupil - below the average for county councils.

The education authority is well-regarded by schools, but inspectrs say support should be provided more selectively to avoid the creation of a dependency culture.

Inspectors criticise the council for a too hasty consultation on changes to its policy on school transport. The bill for school buses is more than pound;7 million and the county has cut costs by reducing free transport eligibility for pupils attending church schools, particularly Catholic secondaries.

They also suggest the council should investigate the reasons behind a significant rise in the number of appeals about admissions to schools.

Overall, the council is judged to have tackled some difficult issues well, particularly the reorganisation of schools. The need to raise attainment is recognised by councillors and officers, says the report.

WORCESTERSHIRE

Strengths

aspects of support for pupils with special educational needs

pupil-referral units that help

prevent exclusions

support for school managers.

Weaknesses

support for ICT in administration and management in schools.

support for the attainment of

ethnic-minority pupils.


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