Improve or replace LEAs?

4th August 2000 at 01:00
IN many councils there is close corporate working between a few departments, including education. The suggestion that education departments should be better integrated into corporate council structures is an obvious way forward for local authorities that have failed to do this, but it does not really address the central issue of contention whether LEAs should exist (TES, July 14).

The key question is whether councils manage efficient support services for schools and help them to raise achievement.

That has more to do with "best value" and nothing at all to do with a semantic discussion about what the term "LEA" refers to or whether the Government contacts the officer responsible for education directly or through the chief executive.

So what are the challenges facing LEAs? First, there is school funding. The Government isrightly concerned to ensure that all schools get a certain level of funding and that any extra money that it makes available actually goes into schools.

Second, a significant minority of councils seem to be performing badly with regard to education. Third, it is clear that new strategies are needed to develop a role based on partnership and collaboration, with schools as well as external partners.

If the Government's concerns about LEAs are to be addressed, these three issues need to be the focus of discussion, not an out-dated topic of departmentalism.

The issue of funding needs to be resolved but that will still leave central government and the Local Government Association asking: should LEAs be improved or replaced?

Ian Harrison

Director of education

Newham Council

Stratford, London E15

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