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Ministers told to stop sniping

CONSTANT sniping about councils from ministers and their spin doctors is holding back progress, a leading education officer was expected to claim today.

Christine Whatford will use her presidential speech to the Society of Education Officers to argue that local authorities have a major role to play in raising standards.

But the education director of Hammersmith and Fulham, the London borough where Tony Blair's children go to school, refuses to defend poor performing councils. She says there are bad local authorities, in the same way as there are bad schools, hospitals and businesses.

Ms Whatford will tell the SEO, meeting in Harrogate: "Until I receive any evidence to the contrary I believe that failing LEAs are a tiny minority."

Evidence from the first 15 council inspections carried out by the Office for Standards in Education and the Audit Commission appears to support that view.

"The Government should be reminded of its own dictum, intervention in inverse proportion to success," Ms Whatford says.

Her speech comes just as the Department for Education and Employment issued a code of conduct for local authorities and received 550 requests for information on taking over the services of failing councils.

Ms Whatford questions where the private companies are that were delivering on school improvement and raising standards. Claiming that the number of council horror stories could be counted on one hand, she says councils should be judged against clear criteria.

"We should not be blamed for everything that goes wrong in education, and discounted completely when things go right."

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