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Heads seek to loosen council grip on schools;Conference of the Secondary Heads Association

Headteachers will this weekend round on local government, demanding more autonomy and greater protection from education authorities and school governors.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, is to launch a stinging attack on local education authorities today, saying many heads have little confidence in them and accusing them of a "naked bid for power" in trying to regain control of pay bargaining.

He accuses some of failing to consult heads over targets or action zone bids. In a speech to grant-maintained school heads, he warns that local authorities could put Tony Blair's standards drive at risk.

It is a theme expected to feature at this weekend's annual conference of the Secondary Heads Association ( see story right).

Mr Hart's speech brings him into direct conflict with the Local Government Association. In it, he allies himself with Chris Woodhead, saying that the chief inspector of schools was "certainly correct" that a "significant number of heads I do not respect the advice they are offered by LEAs".

In another echo of Mr Woodhead, he says local authorities should only intervene in schools identified by the Office for Standards in Education as failing or having serious weaknesses.

"If, as the Government wishes, schools and local authorities are to work in partnership, it's time the local authorities stopped trying to replicate what happened pre-1988 and remembered that heads are the people that actually run schools and are accountable to governors for their performance," he told The TES before his speech at the annual conference of the Grant Maintained Schools Centre in Bournemouth.

School standards minister Stephen Byers's comments that local authorities have no God-given right to run education, have done nothing to calm local authority nerves.

But councils hope the new powers outlined in the School Standards and Framework Bill and the responsibility it gives them for raising achievement show the Government is keeping faith with them.

But Mr Hart warned: "Local authorities seem more concerned about wresting power back and not about making sure their headteachers are given the highest quality data and best quality advice and support if they wish to buy it."

His speech also praises the teachers' pay review body promising a major review of pay over the next two years, and says it should be made truly independent.

The Local Government Association wants the pay body scrapped and a return to direct negotiations between employers and unions. Mr Hart says this would be disastrous.

He also attacks school governors, as "largely unaccountable" people who can by removed only in extreme circumstances while the head "walks the plank" whenever schools get into difficulty.

He accuses the Government of "stubbornly refusing" to recognise heads' de facto role as school chief executives. Governors should "delegate to the maximum degree to their headteachers and let them get on with the job," he says.

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