Power struggle

31st January 1997 at 00:00
The leader on Manton Junior School (TES, January 24) asked how the Nottinghamshire LEA allowed matters to deteriorate so far without stepping in, and whether it really believed it had no power to act.

Only Nottinghamshire can answer those questions directly, but it is almost certain that the LEA had no power to act unless there had been a complete breakdown in pupil discipline, or there was evidence of financial mismanagement.

Elsewhere in the same edition of The TES Clare Dean, reporting on the Society of Education Officers conference, referred to a suggestion by Secretary of State Gillian Shephard that local authorities may be given powers to withdraw delegation and take over management when schools are underperforming. That is needed now, and should be added to the Education Bill currently before Parliament.

Short of explicit powers of early intervention, and realistic powers of inspection, LEAs must continue to rely on persuasion - no doubt, the "advice" given to Manton juniors by the area officer - and on bluff.

If governors and headteachers are unwilling to accept advice, then the LEA cannot intervene until a major breakdown occurs, by which time it is too late.

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

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