Woodhead sees smaller council role;News;News and Opinion

19th November 1999 at 00:00
CHRIS Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, went further than ministers this week, in predicting a much-reduced role for local education authorities.

He told a seminar for local education officers that central government had taken charge of strategies for raising standards in schools and other services could be removed from local democratic control.

He said councils in the future may only retain responsibility for ensuring children have a school place and for providing services for pupils with special needs.

Mr Woodhead said ministers had suggested that intervention might be required in another 15 authorities, but evidence from the by the Office for Standards in Education showed that 16 had at least one inadequate service. To date OFSTED has inspected 50 authorities and published 44 reports.

Analysis undertaken by OFSTED suggested most authorities have submitted similar education development plans. Mr Woodhead told a seminar organised by The Education Network that local authorities, with the exception of Northumberland, appeared to have conceded control of school improvement to the centre.

He said: "All schools require access to high quality services, but there is an argument about whether they should be provided by local education authorities."

Overall, the analysis of inspections showed that the performance of authorities in raising standards in schools was too variable. In many cases, the claim that they worked in partnership with schools was more rhetoric than reality, he said.

Local authorities had, he said, improved their planning and standards in primary schools are rising, but that was in response to central government initiatives such as the literacy and numeracy strategies.

The chief inspector said in some areas the key advisers to schools were not up to the job. The salaries paid to members of local authority inspection teams was not always adequate and hampered recruitment and training, he said.

"The focus of the work of the link advisers and the quality of the officers doing that job are part of the problem and they are being asked to do too much," he said.

However, he said councils were providing support for failing schools and their number had come down from 900 to 400.

Local authorities were criticised for sending advisers into successful schools. Mr Woodhead suggested councils had not taken to heart the Government's strategy of restricting intervention to those institutions that require support.

News, 5

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