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Five-year plan to transform schooling

PUBLISHED: 11:15 17 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 07 September 2010

Sanchez Manning A NEW report identifying serious weaknesses in Westminster's educational system has led to a groundbreaking five-year masterplan aimed at transforming schooling for its 20,000 pupils. The findings of the Westminster Education Commission Re

Sanchez Manning

A NEW report identifying serious weaknesses in Westminster's educational system has led to a groundbreaking five-year masterplan aimed at transforming schooling for its 20,000 pupils.

The findings of the Westminster Education Commission Report have exposed a system that is falling short of its commitments to protect young people.

Investigations proved that communication was so poor within key children's organisations that one child who was known to social services almost slipped through the net because the school was not told of his background.

Meanwhile, some headteachers told investigators that their schools only received visits from officials when their SATS results had fallen.

The report was officially unveiled on Tuesday night at a launch attended by teachers, City Hall bosses, Labour MP Karen Buck, shadow education secretary David Willetts and the government's director general for schools Jon Coles.

In response to failings uncovered in the report, the commissioners made a number of radical recommendations, which include:

o Reviving the Inner London Education Authority in the guise of a "collaborative Inner London board", which would merge all central London's education authorities.

o Giving councils powers to intervene in academies and replace governors if these schools fail to prove they are meeting educational standards.

o Appointing a cabinet member in Westminster who is responsible solely for education.

o Ensuring that senior management from Westminster's children's services make an annual visit to schools and urging councillors to become school governors.

Council leader and Conservative councillor Colin Barrow predicted that the report would have a permanent legacy for children in Westminster.

He said: "I acknowledge there are areas that we must improve and we will act to raise the standards of service provided to our local schools.

"In turn, we will challenge all our schools to address the issues the report raises for them."

Along with the proposals to bring back the ILEA, it is also suggested that a "super secondary improvement unit" be set up. This would pool resources and share information among schools from different boroughs.

These moves would both save money and help protect vulnerable pupils who are falling through the cracks, the report said.

Education Commission head, Birmingham University vice-chancellor Prof David Eastwood, highlighted how children were being put at risk without such a body.

"One example emerged of a child who was known to a neighbouring borough's social services department but who was educated in a Westminster school," it states.

"It fell to individual teachers to make the links and inquiries and liaise effectively with the professionals involved rather than this co-ordination happening strategically and as a matter of course."

The lack of power that the council has over Westminster's four academies was also singled out for criticism because it prevented education bosses intervening if these schools failed.

And the increase in regular visits to schools by councillors was recommended after it emerged that some schools had not had a council visit for five years.


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