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Key dates


The Education Act abolished the local school boards, set up in 1870.

Main responsibility for public education passed to 145 elected county and county borough councils, known as LEAs.


Association of Education Committees formed to provide a national focus for LEAs and a lobby inside local government. The AEC became the national employers' organisation on teachers' pay.


The Education Act 1918 gave LEAs responsibility for adult education and lifelong learning, but it was never fully implemented.

1944 The Butler Education Act (named after wartime education minister RA Butler) set up "a national system of education in England and Wales, locally administered by the LEAs", who were responsible for primary, secondary and further education. The LEAs were also given vague powers over the school curriculum.


The Local Government Act reorganised LEAs outside London into counties in England and Wales and metropolitan districts in the cities. In London, education was run by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and 20 outer London boroughs. Set up in 1974, the new LEAs controlled the public education system and teachers' pay during the 1970s, but their powers soon ebbed away to central government.

1977 Secretary of State for Education Shirley Williams declared the first national "great debate" on education, signalling the end of the "secret garden of the curriculum", overseen by the LEAs and teachers. The same year saw the end of the AEC.


The Education Reform Act 1988 established the first "national curriculum" and put the Department of Education and Science in the driving seat of education policy and administration. It also removed polytechnics from LEA control and abolished the ILEA.


The Further and Higher Education Act took FE colleges and most adult education funding out of LEA control and put power into the hands of a national funding council.

The Local Government Act set up a new boundary commission to reorganise local government in England (and then in Wales). Over the next few years it created the present structure of 150 county, unitary and district council LEAs.


The School Standards and Framework Act gave LEAs a new role in acting as an agent of the Department for Education in raising school standards and intervening in failing schools. But it also gave the department the power to intervene and take over failing LEAs.


The Local Government Act further reduced the role of education committees and CEOs by setting up a cabinet system of paid councillors and more corporate management at town hall level. The Learning and Skills Act took away the planning and funding of all post-16 education and training and gave it to a national quango, the Learning and Skills Council, with 47 local branches.


The Education Act 2002 will devolve more power to headteachers and governors and create new opportunities for private sponsorship of schools and LEA services. Successful schools and LEAs will be able to set up their own companies.

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