Unitary authority's schools 'coasting'

18th December 1998 at 00:00
The first education service to be criticised for failing to deal with coasting schools is the new unitary authority covering rural Leicestershire.

The inspection report of services provided by the authority - which no longer includes Leicester city, or Rutland - says its schools for 14 to 19-year-olds ought to be getting results above the national average.

Local government reorganisation in 1977 resulted in the creation of a smaller, more rural local education authority. The two-tier secondary system of 11-14 and 14-19 schools has been retained.

According to the Office for Standards in Education, a major task for the authority is to raise the expectations of schools about what pupils are capable of achieving. One key finding says: "Too many schools in Leicestershire appear to be coasting at about national averages, where they might and should be aiming for excellence ... Schools are performing adequately, but they need a vigorous, effective local education authority to encourage them to strive harder. The report demonstrates that the foundations have been laid and that this is attainable."

OFSTED suggests reorganisation has created an authority which is predominantly rural, mainly white and relatively affluent. The changes have made the job of the authority easier in that it can focus on schools with a smaller number of priorities.

The report, however, says there are several areas where the LEA could do a great deal better. It is critical of arrangements for admitting children to primary school, which vary across the county. There are also problems, says the report, with the complex arrangements for secondary admissions.

It recommends that a common age of entry be introduced at primary level and that the local authority should track the progress of pupils.

The report also criticised the large number of small rural schools. The director of education, Jackie Strong, said the findings had been accepted. Councillors, however, were concerned about the impact of the closure of small schools on local communities.

The report is obtainable from Roy Evans, Leicestershire County Council education department, County Hall, Glenfield, Leicester LE3 8RF tel: 0116 265 6665

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