The warning was issued today by school standards minister Estelle
Morris speaking at a conference of chief education officers in
Warwick. This follows recent interventions in Hackney, Islington,
However, Ms Morris also praised LEAs which had received good inspections, including Warwickshire and Stoke, saying that the rest
should learn from the best.
Ms. Morris announced a 16% increase in the school improvement grant for 2000/2001 to assist schools and LEAs in improving standards. She urged LEAs to anticipate best value which will require local authorities to consider alternative ways of delivering services such as public/private partnerships and outsourcing.
Ms. Morris said: 'Together with schools you have access to the school improvement grant. It is a vital tool in the drive to raise standards.
'I am delighted to announce today an increase of£40m in school improvement grant for the next financial year.
'The increase of 16% will take the total available to£290.5m for 2000/2001. For the first time next year, extra flexibility will allow schools to vire devolved funds into the school improvement grant from some other standards fund grants.
'We also want to find ways of rewarding success. Next year the grant
will be allocated to LEAs using a formula which rewards those
authorities who have been successful in turning their failing schools
'This is a government that is all about raising standards. Much of
the focus of the last two years has been on raising standards in
schools -and we have shown that with the right leadership and
committed teachers, schools can achieve much.
'But schools need to have an effective local authority to support and
to challenge them if they are to raise standards. Schools have a
right to expect that their local authority will be provide them with
high quality support.
'It is because LEAs have such a key role in the drive to raise
standards that we have asked all LEAs to produce education development plans. We need to ensure that they are delivering an
effective service to their schools and that they are partners in the
drive to raise standards.
'Ofsted has now inspected 50 LEAs and published reports on 44 of
these. All LEAs will be inspected by 2001.
'Many LEAs have come through the inspection process with credit for a
job well done. OFSTED said of Warwickshire LEA it is 'a well-managed
LEA with many significant strengths and no major weaknesses.' Ofsted described Stoke LEA, a new LEA faced with significant disadvantage, as tackling difficulties 'with considerable vigour'. Many LEAs have been praised for grasping the new agenda on literacy and numeracy.
'The significant improvements in the levels of achievement in
literacy and numeracy show how effective the implementation of the
strategy has been.
'Icongratulate these LEAs and their staff for the efforts they have
put into driving forward the government's agenda to raise standards.
'But even good LEAs have something to learn from the inspection
process. We can all learn to do things better. Some LEAs may have
thought they were doing a reasonable job and inspection has shown
that there are areas in which they can and should improve. We in
government are doing our bit to help LEAs improve themselves. The
beacon council initiative is designed to help spread good practice.
'But Ofsted inspection reports have also shown that some LEAs have
been failing their schools and their pupils and where LEAs are
failing we will take decisive action.
We have to do this in the interests of the schools and pupils. As we have shown in Hackney, Islington, Liverpool and Leicester we will, if necessary, step in to ensure that the necessary improvements are made and we will use our legal intervention powers if necessary.
'Our preference is to work with LEAs to deliver the improvements in
partnership and we will always strive to do this but we will not
watch from the side lines if LEAs are failing their schools and their
'If necessary, where LEAs are failing and do not have the wherewithal
to recover quickly, we will invite bids from suitable bodies to
provide the service to a minimum standard. It may be that some LEAs
will require an outside body to come in and undertake a fundamental
assessment of where things are going wrong.
'In other cases, the best way to deliver swift improvements will be
by contracting services out to outside contractors. When problems are
identified, we will ensure the right strategies are in place to
clarify the underlying issues to be dealt with, choose the best
option to tackle them, and make certain that LEAs deliver a
'With the inspection cycle still to be completed, we have to be
prepared for the possibility that there will be more LEAs where
government intervention is necessary. Of the 44 LEAs, Ofsted have
reported on so far we have had to intervene - with the co-operation
of the LEA involved - in 4 LEAs. Should this current trend continue,
I think it is likely that we may be looking at major interventions in
at least another 15 LEAs.
'In addition, we anticipate that there will be other cases where
consultants support may be needed to help prepare action plans or
implement Ofsted recommendations.
'We need to be prepared for this and to ensure that there are sufficient providers and consultants in place which are able to take on this work.
'LEAs need not, of course, wait for an inspection report or for the
department to intervene before looking at whether an outside provider
can offer a better quality of service and better value for money.
'Best value will bring a requirement for local authorities to review
their own services and think about how they might be delivered more
effectively and efficiently.
'This will be important for education departments as other local
authority services. Some local authorities are already moving down
this track. Bedfordshire CC for example, is seeking an alliance with a private sector partner by which the private sector will perform some of the traded services the LEA currently undertakes.
'This will be based on the principles of best value. By doing this
the LEA believes it will be able to focus more clearly on raising
standards in schools and on other priorities. Schools can also be
offered a wider range of higher quality and more cost effective
'There is much to celebrate, including the excellent progress achieved in the recently published Key Stage Results, but the challenge is to ensure that LEAs support schools effectively in the continuing drive to raise standards.'