Time for a change, say councillors

LOCAL government leaders are calling for traditional local education authorities to be scrapped, in a discussion paper due to be published later this month.

The paper calls for an end to the "isolation of LEAs and for education to be more closely integrated with other council services". Education authorities' separate bureaucracies have acted as a barrier to raising school standards and to co-operation with other departments, the report says.

Has the LEA had its day? is the Local Government Association's response to the increasingly hard-line adopted by politicians. Ministers' enthusiasm for private sector takeovers and the Conservatives' recent threat to abolish LEAs have forced local government leaders to present their own vision of reform.

The report argues that epartmental rivalries and the tendency of the Department for Education and Employment to deal only with education and not the whole council have all contributed to LEAs' isolation.

"To deliver educational standards for all, the local education service needs to be fully integrated with other key local government services far more than it has in the past.

"A number of councils are moving away from a traditional structure. The concept of a separate LEA is already out of date in such authorities," the association says.

However, it vigorously defends local authorities' role in education and argues that councils are best placed to improve co-operation between different public services.

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