Headlines: February 4th, 1998

The speed of change in the world of education has accelerated in recent months with root and branch scrutiny of processes and structures. The Audit Commission has now turned the spotlight on Local Education Authorities with a discussion paper Changing Partners to stimulate debate on their future. The Commission has promised a report in the summer setting out findings of an 18 month study into the work of LEAs.The School Standards Bill gives LEAs an opportunity to redefine their role and demonstrate their value, but the big issue identified in the paper is when should the LEA intervene to improve school performance and when should it stand back. Underlying this issue are other questions such as: what is the LEA role in the management, delivery and governance of education? what are the features of an effective LEA? how can performance be assessed and how should they be held accountable?

Andrew Foster, Controller of the Audit Commission, said: “Now, more than ever before, the delivery of a good education service depends on an effective partnership involving pupils, parents, schools, LEAs, local communities and the educational establishment. LEAs can play a pivotal role in such partnerships. If they don’t, the risk is that their relevance will be questioned. I hope that our paper will help schools and LEAs to address that all important question of what role local education authorities should play in facilitating improvements in school performance.”

Local Government Association Education chair Graham Lane said: ‘This report is a welcome contribution to the task facing local government in improving school standards. It poses some key questions about the role of LEAs in the management, delivery and governance of education.”