Progress is easier said than done

29th February 2008 at 00:00
It is clear that 2006-7 was not the best year for the performance of schools. But the chief inspector's report is not all doom and gloom. Schools, colleges and teachers can be proud of real improvements in many areas, despite a slowdown in standards.

The dire performance of some local authorities is more worrying for long-term improvement. Inspectors see little scope for improvement in two-thirds of the local authorities they inspected during 2006-7.

This does not auger well for the School Effectiveness Framework, also launched this week and aimed at narrowing the gap between the best- and worst-performing schools. Local authorities are seen as having a key role in its success, the lynch-pin that holds it all together. But as we also publish the findings of a survey revealing that schools' perceptions of education services are also in decline, tough questions have to be asked.

One educationist, who wished not to be named, said there was growing resentment among secondary schools that many newly appointed officers did not have an education background. He admitted there was a bit of a battle going on behind the scenes. There is no doubt that a lack of funding at the chalk face and ballooning workload has not helped to smooth relations between the Assembly government, local authorities and schools.

Professor David Reynolds perhaps goes a little over the top when he says local authorities in Wales "can't do anything".

There are indeed many cases of good practice by local authorities that are helping school improvement. But are the priorities right?

Good healthy eating and lifestyle schemes are all very well but they don't put bread on the table. The sad fact remains that as the public purse becomes tighter, the existence of 22 separate LEAs becomes less viable. How much longer can we carry on paying for all those directors of education? And is there enough money in the pot to restructure?

Dr Bill Maxwell has come to Wales with all guns blazing, saying schools and local authorities must collaborate to bring on school improvement. Is this straight-talking Scot facing an uphill battle in turning his tough words into action? Sadly, it appears so.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today