We should heed French warning;Letter;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
SHOCK horror, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools is right ('Woodhead sees smaller council role', TES, November 19).

In marked contrast to the rest of Europe, local authorities in the the United Kingdom have increasingly lost their local government role and, instead, have settled for a service delivery role.

It is therefore logical that if other agencies, be they voluntary or private, can demonstrate equal or better value for money, then local authority provision will be replaced.

Quite what all those elected councillors are for is a pressing question. The new orthodoxy claims they can scrutinise and monitor the extent to which local schools and education officers are carrying out central government strategies. Their regional and local counterparts in France, Italy, the Nordic countries and Spain would find this quite unacceptable.

The direction and key priorities of the education service should certainly be determined by central government, but (even) France has acknowledged the dangers of an over-centralised system in a modern, educated society where pluralism is a valued civic objective.

The French also warn against the "technocratic delusion" in believing that the centre always knows best in the "how" as well as the "what".

Professor Margaret Maden, Department of Education, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire.

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