Quangos are not the way forward;Leading Article;Opinion

30th July 1999 at 01:00
THE SUGGESTION by Ian Dutton as a former director of education that councillors have outlived their usefulness in running education is bound to be derided. John Connell, who as a local government official recently listed in The TES Scotland functions that would be difficult to undertake outwith a council structure, takes Mr Dutton to task (Letters, page 2) not least on the ground that he followed local government service with a period in which he helped the only two self-governing schools relate to their central government funders.

Mr Dutton may be right in saying that many councillors lack the skills to make major decisions about education and fight the schools corner in the annual battle for resources. But he has surely been unfortunate in his years in the north of England and the Scottish Borders if he can really recall no initiative emanating from a local politician. Had he worked in Edinburgh, for example, he would have had such member-led ploys as early intervention to implement.

Day-to-day involvement by central government in running schools would be undesirable, as Mr Dutton accepts from his experience with the tiny self-governing group. His preferred way forward, local bodies comprising education expertise and community interest, invites a sceptical response. It smacks of Health Service administration which is notoriously undemocratic and unaccountable.

The relationship of schools to local and central government is bound to be looked at as the Parliament beds in and as reform of councils moves up the agenda. The spontaneous sparking of debate is welcome. Credible ideas for improvement may follow, but not just yet.

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