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LEA inspections overhaul

Inspection reports on local education authorities are to be replaced by reviews looking at all children's services in the area.

From September 2005, inspectors will make judgements on council education services together with probation, health and social services for young people aged 0-19.

The joint inspections are part of the Government's policy, contained in the Children Act, which aims to prevent a repeat of the tragedy which befell Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old whose death was blamed on inaction by the services supposed to protect her.

High-performing councils can expect a light-touch inspection, just looking at areas that need to be improved.

Each council area in England will be visited once every three years by a team drawn from 10 existing inspectorates, including the Office for Standards in Education and the Adult Learning Inspectorate, under the plans contained in consultation papers published this week.

The reviews will replace separate inspections of Connexions services, 14 to 19 area-wide reviews and Children's Fund programmes.

Currently inspections of LEAs take place on a four-year basis.

A new common framework will judge how well services meet the five key outcomes for children identified by the Act: staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and economic well-being.

David Bell, chief inspector, said: "These proposals are intended to improve the lot of all children wherever they live and whatever their circumstances." But he said that it was impossible to guarantee the safety of every child and admitted it would be harder in future for Ofsted to carry out thematic studies, for example this week's report on the fate of excluded children.

Councils will still be under scrutiny from the Audit Commission.

Alison King, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "This is broadly positive but we are concerned that joint inspections will not necessarily reduce the burden on councils."

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