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DEBATE ON THE FUTURE OF LOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITIES

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Proposals to abolish local education authorities and hand their functions and powers to the new local learning and ...
Proposals to abolish local education authorities and hand their functions and powers to the new local learning and skills councils are being explored at the request of the Institute for Public Policy Research, reports The Guardian (Education, p49).

A trio of former or current chief education officers, headed by Margaret Maden, ex-head of Warwickshire CC's education department, has been commissioned by the IPPR to take a hard look at the future of the 150 English authorities.

Their conclusions are due to be released in September and - should they gather support - would be comfortably in time for any consideration for Labour's election manifesto.

But Neil Fletcher, the Local Government Association's head of education, said: 'Anyone who thinks we want more quangos, rather than local democracy, is not reading the public mood.'

A source close to the project said: 'The question is: how best to organise the functions which are at present administered by local education authorities. The experience coming out of Ofsted inspection of local authorities is that it's the small one which are running into trouble. They don't have the strength and depth of expertise to handle the problems.'

Their functions - including opening and closing schools, ensuring sufficient places, operating budgets, running special needs - couldn't be done nationally or regionally.

'These are functions which someone's got to do sub-regionally and surprise, surprise, suddenly these 47 local learning and skills councils pop up,' the source said.

One advantage in transferring powers to the new bodies, which are due to begin operations in April next year, is that it would re-establish the connection between pre-16 and post-16 education, now that the majority of youngsters are staying in education until 18.

'There's a very strong argument that your education system should be administered as a whole,' the source said. It mustn't mean bureaucratic appointment, but 'proper educationalists. And at least half the council would have to be elected.'

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