Councils given role in correcting failures

12th December 1997 at 00:00
Local authorities are given extensive new powers by the Bill to intervene in schools showing signs of weakness before they are condemned as failing by OFSTED. The new powers will affect all maintained schools, including foundation schools.

The Government hopes to both give LEAs a more pro-active role in raising standards, and give the schools a chance to improve before risking "special measures". But although the LEAs welcome being given a stronger role, many object that after 17 years in which their powers have been eroded by central government, they no longer have the staff or money to do the job.

Under the legislation, the LEA will be able to give the school a "warning notice" if it suspects standards are unacceptably low, that there has been a "serious breakdown in the way the school is managed or governed," or if it feels the safety of pupils or staff is threatened.

The school will then be given a "compliance period" to correct the defects. If it fails to do so, the LEA can appoint additional governors.

In the case of foundation or voluntary aided schools, the "appropriate appointing authority", such as the diocesan board, can appoint an equal number of extra governors. But they must cease to hold office when the LEA appointees depart.

If all these measures fail, LEAs will also get the power to take back the school's delegated budget.

If the Secretary of State feels that the LEA is not being energetic enough in helping a school improve once it has been deemed failing by OFSTED, he can intervene directly. He can appoint as many additional governors as he thinks fit and can put a new chair of governors in. If the LEA has already withdrawn the school's budget, the Secretary of State can revoke this suspension. He can also direct the LEA to close a school after consultation with all concerned.

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