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Councils to ponder point of existence

CHIEF education officers and councillors are to meet ministers and be briefed by senior government officials as part of a drive to improve local authorities' performance.

From next month, new officials and councillors from local authorities will be invited to the Department for Education and Employment for training.

Education Secretary David Blunkett announced the package at the Education Network's conference, What makes a good LEA?

He also called on local authorities to develop innovative ideas and said the Government would continue its drive to make local authorities more effective and to ensure that struggling schools received the right support.

Mr Blunkett said: "The quesion we have to ask ourselves is not whether an education authority should exist - I have said before that if we didn't have authorities we would have to invent something similar. Rather it is in what form and for which century?

"So I ask you to think the unthinkable. To work from the 'bottom up' in ways which challenge us. Innovation from within, celebration of what works, and the spreading of excellence."

A DFEE spokesman said: "The briefing will naturally be politically neutral, since those attending will span the political spectrum.The Government sees local authorities as its partners. This will be another important step towards greater openness and freer communication."

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