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MORRIS WARNS OF INTERVENTION IN A FURTHER 15 LEAS

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Up to 15 more LEAs could face government intervention in the drive to improve standards following Ofsted inspection...
Up to 15 more LEAs could face government intervention in the drive to improve standards following Ofsted inspections if present trends continue.

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,

Leicester and Liverpool.

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

around.

'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

pupils.

'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

successful conclusion.

'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

services.

'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.'

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