Turnaround for failing authorities

Two failing education authorities which were subject to government intervention have been given glowing inspection reports.

In Walsall, a private company has achieved one of the fastest-ever improvements of education services, the Office for Standards in Education has revealed.

Leeds has also been praised after control of the LEA was given to Education Leeds, a council-owned company, with strategic advice from private firm, Capita.

Inspectors rated Walsall's education department, which was outsourced to Serco in 2002, as "highly satisfactory" when just two years ago it was given the lowest rating of "very poor".

The improvement of four points on the scale is one of the largest ever made between inspections.

Elaine Simpson, managing director of Education Walsall, a subsidiary of Serco, said independence from the council and a direct mandate from the Department for Education and Skills proved crucial.

Bob Poyser, head of one of the country's most improved schools, Palfrey junior in Walsall, said teachers had been freed to concentrate on improving standards. "I suppose it was a classic LEA model: under-funded and under-strength. It's a far more professionally run outfit now," he said.

Leeds LEA received a stinging Ofsted report at the start of 2000. Now Ofsted has found that the new management is highly satisfactory.

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