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I'm no hit man, says prudent Peacock

NEW ministerial powers to tackle local authorities which do not deal with underachieving schools are described as a "prudent measure" by the Education Minister.

In an attempt to end the confusion surrounding the forthcoming intervention powers Bill, Peter Peacock told The TES Scotland: "The new powers build on the existing process of inspection and support. There is currently no direct power to enforce HM Inspectorate of Education recommendations.

"This is a prudent measure. It will be too late in the future to discover that we need the power to intervene but that we don't have it," he said.

Mr Peacock, who this week extended his education tour by dining with leaders of the Educational Institute of Scotland at their Perth conference, said the additional powers would only be used as a last resort.

"Local authorities and schools will be allowed time to comply with HMIE recommendations. If a local authority fails to act on recommendations made by HMIE in order to secure improvements, the new powers of intervention will allow us to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon by the local authority in question," he said.

No child should have their opportunities squandered as a result of sloppiness by any school, local authority or even the Scottish Executive, Mr Peacock said.

It is understood the Bill will amend Section 70 of the 1980 Education Act which gives ministers powers to intervene. The refinement is believed to specify inaction or ineffectiveness once inspectors report.

Council leaders and education directors are known to be unhappy about further central government direction which may lead to hit squads being dispatched to take over education departments.

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