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Wanted: more firms to run LEAs

THE GOVERNMENT this week advertised for more public and private-sector companies to take over failing council services in anticipation of further critical inspection reports on local education authorities.

Advertisements offering "new contract opportunities" appeared in the national press this week, as reports on Rotherham, Leeds and Sheffield were published. Consultants are to be sent into the three authorities.

The Office for Standards in Education has found cause for concern in 23 of the 59 English local authorities it has so far inspected.

And schools standards minister Estelle Morris announced this week the Government was seeking new sources of alternative help. Last year she predicted that 15 failing local authorities would require intervention, although so far just two contracts have been awarded.

These are in Hackney, where parts of the service have been hived off to Nord Anglia, and in Islington, where responsibilit for education has been contracted out to Cambridge Education Associates.

Final proposals for Nord Anglia's plans to replace Hackney's school improvement service are expected next Wednesday.

So far there are just 10 government-approved service providers, including Capita, the Centre for British Teachers as well as Birmingham, Hampshire and Essex local authorities. Six organisations have been awarded framework contracts for possible consultancy.

The Local Government Association which last time around did not make it on to the approved list said it would re-apply.

But Christine Whatford, education director of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, told last week's Society of Education Officers' conference: "The Government is clearly into building a private-sector alternative. That market will only get off the ground if people like you and me cross the line and go and work for the private sector."

News, 9

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