Improve on success of local management

18th November 1994 at 00:00
I refrained from protest when a summer TES leader contained ill-informed speculation about the Association of Metropolitan Authorities local management of schools review. Now that we have launched our consultation, I am dismayed and angered to read a complete travesty of it (November 4). From a headline that belies the forward-looking approach to our work, you go on to claim that AMA says things we do not say; attribute to us view we do not hold; and make sweeping statements that are both historically inaccurate and internally inconsistent.

We unequivocally support the principles and objectives of LMS which, let it be remembered, were developed by some local education authorities long before central government decided to legislate. We believe that improving LMS and the quality of information given to parents is necessary to clarify accountability to the community and to raise standards. The vast majority of schools are operating perfectly well under current arrangements with appropriate support from their LEA - although there are a number of ways in which that constructive and supportive relationship could be improved. However there are a significant minority of schools which are performing less well than they should and whose problems are not being addressed.

Under present arrangements, nothing can be done unless the school is "failed" by the Office for Standards in Education or things become so bad that the LEA can justify a complete withdrawal of delegated powers. These are both drastic measures which can, in themselves, do further damage to already weakened schools and make the road to recovery more difficult. Before such a point is reached, schools can follow a long slow decline during which hundreds of children are denied the quality of education to which they are entitled.

A limited and timely intervention by a competent body can help address smaller problems before they become major failures. Contrary to your assertion, we are canvassing the introduction of new but lesser powers than currently exist to be used only under strictly defined circumstances. This would not lead to any "interference" with headteachers and governors unless they were conspicuously and persistently falling down on the job. It would be in the direct interest of parents and pupils and could, for example, be triggered when parental concerns had not been addressed at school level.

You chose to link your comments to the Borrie Commission and the recent appointment of a new Labour party education spokesman. Strictly speaking, this is irrelevant to the AMA as we also represent Conservative and Liberal-Democrat run councils and we aim to achieve a cross-party consensus in our major policy pronouncements. However, the views of the Labour majority group on the AMA are completely in harmony with David Blunkett's recent statement of Labour party policy. We all believe that the failed GM experiment has damaged public education and must be ended.

LMS has been a success and this is precisely why we are promoting it as the starting point for debate on a better future for public education.

GRAHAM LANE Chair of the education committee Association of Metropolitan Authorities London SW1.

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