Keep skills in the LEA family

14th July 2000 at 01:00
IN your comprehensive news coverage (TES, June 30), local politicians were being pilloried by the chief inspector of schools and councils were stereotyped as "town hall robbers".

It seems neither Chris Woodhead, who advocates "minimalist LEAs" and maximum privatisation as the only model, nor the Department for Education and Employment, which believes local education authorities only spend money on "red tape", is prepared to give credit where credit is due.

However, MPs on the education select committee, having collected evidence and on the basis of rigorous questioning of the key players, has a much more measured attitude. Their report points out that the private sector is not "inherently more skilled ... than the public sector" (TES, July 7) - and indeed the private sector recruits its education staff direct from LEAs.

Equally importantly the select committee recommends that the Government should establish a scheme to allow highly experienced LEA officers to support under-performing authorities.

The Society of Education Officers, with others, has been developing a variety of models to enable LEAs to support others, including the establishment of a "cadre" of high-quality administrators.

So far, for the financial reasons identified by the committee, it has not been possible to implement such a model, although the Secretary of State is currently considering our proposals.

In terms of value for money, seconding staff within the LEA "family" will surely be much more cost effective than supporting the overheads of the private sector.

Chris Waterman

General secretary

Society of Education Officers

Boulton House

17-21 Chorlton Street, Manchester

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