Plymouth is not in hit squad's sights

31st March 2000 at 01:00
ANYONE reading your story referring to the Office for Standards in Education inspection of Plymouth education authority (TES, March 24) could be forgiven for thinking that a "hit squad" was about to descend upon the city. Let me reassure your readers that this is definitely not the case and that, in the words of education minister Estelle Morris, Plymouth LEA received "a fairly positive report".

I was very surprised that OFSTED's own headline comment that the LEA "has begun well" did not merit a mention. If The TES didn't have enough editorial space to cover our inspection properly, one wonders why it chose to devote space to two photos with damning, misleading captions?

Putting some strengths and weaknesses in a box is not really an adequate demonstration of balance, particularly when the few weaknesses are listed in full but the many strengths are not. Among the 14 significant positive comments from inspectors were:

the senior management team has a notably open and responsive style;

relationships with schools are good;

services are well established and cost les than similar services in other unitary authorities;

schools with serious weaknesses and needing special measures are effectively supported.

I was also disappointed by your headline "New authority 'offers poor value'." This statement does not appear in our report. The inspectors report: "Services are, by and large, well established and cost less than similar services in other unitary authorities ... Most of the LEA services are economic and efficient but not all are carried out effectively."

After being in operation for only 17 months, most people would think this sounds positive. It certainly is not "poor value".

Your report almost displayed schadenfreude by the use of inaccurate comments and captions which state that Plymouth LEA is "on the rocks" and that children are being "short-changed". Our schools have gained funding and feel far from short-changed. Since the report also says we are "well able to implement the necessary changes to effect improvement", can we really be on the rocks?

Sohail Faruqi

Director for lifelong learning


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