Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 14:32 GMT
Warning for failing authorities
Hackney was the first LEA to lose some of its powers
More failing local education authorities could face having their services privatised in a drive to raise standards.
School Standards Minister Estelle Morris has warned that if present trends continue, up to 15 more LEAs are likely to face government intervention after critical reports by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).
But she said authorities should not wait for a poor report before considering whether someone else - a larger authority or the private sector - might be able to deliver services to schools more effectively.
Ms Morris' comments, in a speech to a conference of chief education officers in Warwick, follow government interventions in four out of 50 LEAs inspected so far.
Hackney, Islington, Leicester and Liverpool LEAs brought in external consultants after critical Ofsted reports.
Private contractors have taken over two key services in Hackney, and will soon take over almost all of Islington's education service.
'We will step in'
But Ms Morris also praised LEAs which had received good inspection reports, such as Warwickshire and Stoke, saying other authorities should learn from them.
"But schools need to have an effective local authority to support and to challenge them if they are to raise standards. Schools have a right to expect that their local authority will prove them with high quality support.
"Ofsted inspection reports have shown that some LEAs have been failing their schools and their pupils, and where LEAs are failing we will take decisive action.
"We have to do this in the interests of the schools and pupils. As we have shown in Hackney, Islington, Liverpool and Leicester, we will, if necessary, step in to ensure that the necessary improvements are made and we will use our legal intervention powers if necessary.
"Our preference is to work with LEAs to deliver the improvements in partnership and we will always strive to do this but we will not watch from the sidelines if LEAs are failing their schools and their pupils."
Ms Morris announced a 16% increase in the school improvement grant for 2000/2001, boosting it to £290.5m, to help schools and LEAs improve standards.