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Wednesday, 17 November, 1999, 19:04 GMT
Local authorities call for Woodhead's sacking
Chris Woodhead criticised LEAs for interfering with successful schools

The Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Chris Woodhead, has called into question the future of local education authorities - a threat which councils have angrily rejected.

Mr Woodhead, speaking at a conference in London, questioned whether the role of local authorities in education could be replaced by outside contractors.

But the Local Government Association has described the chief inspector's suggestions as "rubbish" and called on the government to sack him.

"Chris Woodhead wants British education to be taken down an extreme right-wing road which would ruin the country's very good education system. The government should get rid of him and his reactionary ideas," said an LGA spokesman.

Mr Woodhead said only a small fraction of what local education authorities did - mainly the planning and allocation of school places, and meeting special educational needs - needed to stay within "local democratic control".

The rest of their services were "technical and professional", and who should provide them remained an open question.

Mr Woodhead said some authorities were contributing to the improvement of local schools. But even when this was the case, improvements were driven by central government schemes, such as the national literacy and numeracy strategies, rather than by the LEAs' own initiatives.

Mr Woodhead's comments come two days after Education Minister Estelle Morris warned that up to 15 more LEAs could face government intervention, and possible privatisation of their services.

Last week, the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) announced it would publish inspection reports on authorities itself, because some were hiding unfavourable news from local parents.

School support

Mr Woodhead revealed on Wednesday that Ofsted inspections of more than 40 LEAs had found 16 where some major function was being performed "inadequately".

And he criticised authorities for interfering too much with successful schools, which out to be "left to their own destinies".

"There are two questions which need to be asked and debated with regard to the future contribution of local education authorities," he said.

"What locally provided support schools need and who should best provide it? And what aspects of education should remain within local democratic control?

"All schools need access to high quality, value for money services. But is there any clinching argument as to why local education authorities should provide these services?"

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See also:
16 Nov 99 |  Education
Cracking down on 'coasting' schools
15 Nov 99 |  Education
Warning for failing authorities
06 Nov 99 |  Education
Haringey angered by privatisation threat
22 Oct 99 |  Education
Education chief quits ahead of inspection
06 Aug 99 |  Education
Leicester's education director resigns
29 Jul 99 |  Education
More authorities under scrutiny

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