The report's conclusions in detail

14th March 1997 at 00:00
The commentary section is more negative than the report as a whole.

The commentary:

* the structure and organisation of the council is unwieldy and bureaucratic. "Its 14 subcommittees and numerous working groups ... guaranteed democratic involvement but occupied too much of the time of officers and members".

* councillors interfere too much in the detail of the local authority's work; * there is a culture of distrust between the council and schools. "Members' decisions are often thought to be arbitrary and rooted in hostility to professionals". The reluctance of the exclusions committee to accept heads' decisions to permanently exclude pupils has caused particular resentment.

The council appears reluctant to delegate budgets to schools; * the council has supported primaries better than secondaries; * the education department's development plan concentrates too much on procedures and not enough on goals to be achieved; * of the six secondaries still under LEA control,the council has not done enough to improve the two least popular schools in central Halifax, leading parents to move out of the city in droves; * officers were "too ready" to respond to schools' requests for help on an ad hoc basis; * the policy to integrate pupils with special needs in mainstream schools was not always backed up by practical support; * the LEA does not communicate its priorites with clarity.

The main report:

* the inspectors acknowledge that Calderdale is not a homogenous area and that pupils from ethnic minorities are concentrated in a small area. This degree of diversity complicates the task of those responsible for public services. They note that control of the council over the past two decades has fluctuated between Labour and a hung council. For a small authority it faces a complex set of difficulties compounded by frequent political vicissitudes; * in 80 per cent of primary schools standards were at least satisfactory, and they were good in a quarter to a third. Teaching was satisfactory in all but two schools. Behaviour and discipline was good in six out of the seven schools where this was assessed;

* in secondaries, GCSE scores are below the national average - 77 per cent of a sample of 61 lessons was satifactory or better. "This leaves too large a proportion that is unsatisfactory";

* all the special schools visited and the pupil referral unit were either satisfactory or improving;

* the council's education development plan identifies useful objectives but lacks priorities;

* the respective roles of councillors and officers is not clearly defined. Reorganisation within the education department "in part explains why the professional leadership of the LEA has failed to offer any vision as to how standards can be raised";

* LEA guidance to schools on discipline is sensible but "HMI could find little evidence that it had been implemented consistently". Support for disruptive pupils in school is"fragmented into four different teams";

* the LEA is commended for trying to ensure that the interests of individual excluded pupils are upheld, but "thought also has to be given to the context and the intake of the school and whether the school has access to support I to enable it to work with sometimes very challenging children".

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