(Photograph) - Local education authorities are on probation. Not only have ministers warned that they have no "God-given right to lead and run everything", their competence has also been repeatedly challenged. The setting up of education action zones, compulsory scrutiny by government inspectors and enforced handover to schools of yet another tranche of their budgets, have all raised doubts about their future. Do we need local education services at all? If so, should they be democratically accountable? James Tooley says children's education is too important to leave to local politicians, while Margaret Maden argues that maintaining the link between schools and LEAs is vital, and should be preserved.