'Very positive start' for Falkirk

28th October 2005 at 01:00
Falkirk Council's education department is not out of the woods yet, earning itself the transitional verdict of an "interim follow-up" report from HMIE.

Inspectors have concluded: "The period without the leadership of a director of education and the management restructuring had resulted in additional workload and uncertainty for many staff in education services and this, in turn, had inhibited the pace of progress in responding to the inspection report."

The initial report, in April last year, found five areas of the authority's operations to be good but six were only fair, including leadership. But HMIE clearly believes Falkirk is back on track and has an "increasing capacity to manage change and secure improvements".

Julia Swan, the director of education who took over from the ousted Graeme Young, is said to have made "a very positive start" and won the confidence of councillors, her senior management team and headteachers.

The report states: "There was evidence of clearer direction, greater dynamism, better communication and more streamlined and effective management structures and systems."

Ms Swan is paying particular attention to the need for significant improvements in the performance of the council's secondary schools, which the initial HMIE report described as unsatisfactory at Higher and Advanced Higher levels, the lowest rating.

The director has set up a secondary schools improvement partnership. She has hired an external consultant to train key officials and all secondary heads, concentrating on leadership capacity. A clearer system of monitoring and quality assurance is also in place.

Tom Coleman, convener of Falkirk's education and leisure committee, said "a huge effort" had gone into the significant progress that has been made over the past 18 months. HMIE had particularly praised the three heads of service, Ann Carnachan, Nigel Fletcher and James McKinstry, who were responsible for taking the original action demanded by inspectors.

A full follow-up inspection will take place in a year's time.

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