Neither councils nor teachers should be scapegoated

24th May 1996 at 01:00
Clare Dean and Linda Blackburne reported on "the three London boroughs slated by the Government for their teaching of reading in primary schools" (TES, May 10). But are local education authorities to blame? Since 1988 they have had their powers severely curtailed and their ability to intervene is very limited. Their influence has to rely on the vagaries of Grants for Education Support and Training and the small amount of funding not delegated to schools.

Small wonder that a recent Education Management Information Exchange survey, sponsored by the Royal Society and the AEC Trust, shows a marked decline in numbers of specialist advisers and inspectors. Between 1992-93 and 1994-95 there was a 6 per cent reduction in English advisers and a 41 per cent reduction in advisory teachers of English.

We are told the June White Paper will propose further delegation to schools, and hence further erosion of the ability of LEAs to influence standards. At the same time the Office for Standards in Education is to be given powers to inspect LEAs and to report on whether they are succeeding or failing.

Some will welcome the inspection proposal as recognition that LEAs do have a role (and, indeed, have done well to sustain considerable influence against strong odds).

But inspection will fail unless there is a clear statement by the Government in the White Paper of what is expected of LEAs against which performance can be assessed.

Now is the opportunity to abandon scapegoating and capitalise on the valuable resource that lies in every LEA.

ANDREW COLLIER General secretary Society of Education Officers Boulton House 17-21 Chorlton Street Manchester

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