New train SET

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
To Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire's education centre. The former secondary school building has been refashioned. The canteen shop sells stamps and birthday cards. Outside, there are clean plastic chairs and tables in shaded courtyards with raised flower beds.

"We want to give teachers a message that we care about them," says Tom Self, who manages the site. "The right ambience is important if we want them to take training seriously."

The senior officer is Les Craggs, assistant director responsible for school standards and curriculum. "This is one of the best centres I have seen - and I have worked around the country a grea deal," he says. "For a start, we have a dance adviser. When was the last time you heard of one of those?

Mr Craggs is taking the authority's new responsibilities seriously: after the merger with social services, Hertfordshire local education authority is the corporate parent to the 800 children in its care.

"We're very concerned to ensure these children play their full part in sport and in youth clubs," he says. "Our agenda has widened. We are looking for true balance in the curriculum to produce well-rounded youngsters. There is a strong emphasis on personal, social and health education and citizenship."

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