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Advisers under pressure

The Government's plans to establish unitary authorities in Wales, Scotland and some English counties are seen as a massive gamble. But how long are the odds against education winning this time? The TES reports.

One of the biggest problems that the tiniest unitary authorities will have to confront is how to run an education service with only a handful of officials and half a dozen advisers.

The typical county LEA employs between 30 and 40 advisers which enables it to have a full range of subject and age-range specialists. But unitary bodies such as Hartlepool (population 90,000) will have to cut their advisory cloth to suit their means.

For the 10 per cent share of the education budget that the unitary body will retain from 1995-96 will also have to cover: * all education administration; * support services such as the school library service; * any cover for long-term teacher absence; and * funding for pupils with statements of special need and educational psychologists.

Dr John Williams, chief education officer of the Isle of Wight, has personal experience of the difficulties that this creates and he does not envy the task that even smaller unitary bodies will take on.

"We have eight advisers and we are very, very pressed. We don't have specialists in history, geography and art. We buy in this expertise, but I won't claim we are as effective in these areas as we would like."

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