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Think-tank to help Bradford spend

Bradford's beleaguered education service is to receive an extra pound;3 million over three years and a trouble-shooter to make sure it is spent properly.

David Mallen, a Department for Education and Skills adviser, will head a think-tank called the School Improvement Partnership Board, which will decide how the Government money can support city schools.

He will join representatives from Bradford council, local schools and Education Bradford - also known as Serco, which won a 10-year pound;360m contract to run Bradford's education service in July 2001.

Mr Mallen is currently chair of Bradford's education policy partnership which advises Education Bradford. He has also worked with councils in South Tyneside, Rotherham and Calderdale following critical inspections.

The school improvement board will look at individual schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses and develop action plans with them.

Education Bradford insists that the additional funding from the Government is not an indication that it is failing to deliver.

The suspension of Office for Standards in Education inspections due to a reorganisation meant that the problems facing the city's schools remained hidden for two years.

Mr Mallen added: "Every school was affected during the re-organisation.

Strong schools take change in their stride, but some schools were already having problems, so no wonder they went under."

Despite promises to transform Bradford's schools and bring their results up to national averages by 2006, Education Bradford only hit five out of 50 targets in its first year.

The involvement of private business in state education has been less than impressive so far.

Last month, CEA@Islington was fined more than pound;450,000 for failing to hit GCSE targets in the north London borough for a third year running.

Nord Anglia has also failed to make an impact in Hackney, east London, and was replaced with a "not-for-profit" trust.

Serco, specialists in traffic light maintenance and early-warning defence systems, began work in Bradford in July 2001, insisting it could transform schools.

In January, Ofsted said that significant progress had been made since its last inspection when it was deemed "very poor".

However, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, has said he is still "very concerned" about education in the city.

Since the inspections began again two years ago, 23 schools - or 10 per cent - have been judged to have serious weaknesses or require special measures.

Gareth Dawkins, who chairs meetings of Bradford's secondary heads, and is the principal at Challenge College in the city, said: "The board is good news.

"Getting experienced educationalists in is what Bradford needs. You've got some schools in Bradford operating under the most challenging circumstances.

"Education Bradford hasn't had sufficient people of quality and experience to support the schools."

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