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Exclusion trap;Leading Article

IF LOCAL education authorities are to justify their existence, they must urgently improve their performance when it comes to young people who are missing out on education. This week's shocking report from the Audit Commission -- which revealed that excluded pupils are being ignored for as long as three months and that most local councils have no idea if schoolgirl mothers continue with their schooling -- demonstrates that truants, excluded pupils and other absentees are being fobbed off with a grossly inadequate education.

Yet making sure that such young people do not become lost causes is surely a crucial role for LEAs -- which over the past decade have lost so many of their functions. Supporting the excluded, helping struggling schools to improve their performance, and coordinating provision across a local area would all be particularly difficult in a system of completely autonomous schools.

Local authorities are not just falling down on their legal and moral duty by abandoning those children who would benefit most from their support. Even an elementary notion of self-interest would suggest that doing a first-rate job on this front would make their future survival more likely -- and more justifiable.

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