Headlines: March 15th, 1999

The gap between the better performing local education authorities and their schools, and the poorest performmers, is widening. Local Authority Performance Indicators 1997/98 published by the Audit Commission show that some of the poorest performing councils turned in worse results than the previous year. The overall performance improved slightly.

Many of the poor performers are in deprived areas, but there is no consistent relationship between deprivation and poor performance. GCSE results in the best performing deprived areas match those achieved in some affluent areas.

This makes it clear that some of the effects of social deprivation, which present special challenges to councils and schools in poor areas, can be overcome.There is, however, an expectation that social exclusion initiatives and particularlyly the New Deal employment measures will eventually show through in better results in schools.

The figures show that private companies, not for profit organisations and other bodies who are currently bidding to take over failing local education authorities face a stiffer challenge than had been expected. The Department for Education and Employment is currently sifting respones and next month will announce details of who will be invited to tender for assignments.