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HIT-SQUAD GIVES FINAL WARNING.

The first in a new breed of tough school hit-squads will be sent in to sort out troubled Calderdale education authority, it was announced yesterday.

Education secretary Gillian Shephard has given the authority a month to come up with a plan of action and will draft in advisers to implement it.

The move comes after an Ofsted inspectors' report said the West Yorkshire authority was doing little to improve school standards.

The report was done by Ofsted inspectors sent in when the Ridings school in Halifax, West Yorks, closed in November after teachers threatened to strike over unruly pupils.

But it has sparked a bitter row with Calderdale accusing Mrs Shephard of exaggerating the findings.

Ofsted found Calderdale education bosses kept up minimum standards but had " no convincing strategy for school improvement".

Inspectors also found "hostility and suspicion among headteachers and school governors towards the education committee".

The report added: "Heads were anxious for high quality advice that might help them move forward. They were clear that such advice had not been regularly available from the LEA."

Yesterday Calderdale's education director Ian Jennings denied the report was bad. He said it made "no suggestion that Calderdale is a failing authority".

But Mrs Shephard said: "It should not have been left to the Government to intervene in the Ridings school by sending in inspectors. Calderdale should have taken action long before."

It is the first move in the Tories' war against bad education chiefs.Legislation in the offing would give Ofsted powers to send hit-squads into other education authorities.

Mrs Shephard vowed: "I intend to seek powers to intervene more directly when an LEA appears to be failing in its duties."

"I will not tolerate education authorities which preside over low standards and poor quality schools."

Labour's education secretary David Blunkett accused the Tories of turning Labour-controlled Calderdale into a "political football'.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 11, 1997
Words:311
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