Monday, March 29, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
More education authorities face inspection
Chris Woodhead: "Inspection holds them to account"
The schools watchdog has announced that it will inspect a further 18 local education authorities in England this year.
The Office for Standards in Education, assisted by the Audit Commission, will send in inspection teams to assess how well the councils are supporting the schools under their control.
The move comes after the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, called on the watchdog to speed up its programme of inspections so that all local education authorities were inspected by 2001.
Previous Ofsted reports have heavily criticised authorities including Hackney, Liverpool and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
'Considerable improvements to make'
The local education authorities on the new list were chosen for a number of reasons, including the performance of their schools.
They are: Barnet, Hertfordshire, Rotherham, Bristol, Lancashire, Salford, Derbyshire, Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster, Lewisham, Solihull, Greenwich, Oxfordshire, Walsall, Halton, Plymouth, and Worcestershire.
The Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Chris Woodhead, said local education authorities had an important role in raising school standards.
"Inspection by Ofsted and the Audit Commission holds them to account for their effectiveness in carrying out that role," he said.
"At the same time, inspection has an important part to play in informing local education authorities themselves of the improvements they need to make, which are often considerable."