Headlines: July 24th, 2003

Local authorities have signed what’s being heralded as an historic agreement with the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, to work in partnership to achieve better educational outcomes for children and young people. Both parties have set out their commitment to a vision of an education system in which every child is accorded equal worth and achieves their full potential.Charles Clarke said the agreement, with the Local Government Association, marked a new commitment to dialogue and genuine partnership between the Department for Education and Skills and local education authorities. The LGA chair, Sir Jeremy Beecham, said it represented a breakthrough in the relationship between the two sides at a crucial point in the ongoing discussions on education funding.

The signing of the agreement follows a call from Charles Clarke for a new partnership between central and local government to drive forward school improvement, when he addressed the Association of Chief Education Officers in March. The document has been drawn up by officers from the LGA, the Confederation of Education Service Managers and the DfES. During the autumn all LEAs will have the opportunity to make a compact with the department setting out how they will work together on the priorities the LEA feels need most attention in the coming school year. Five authorities – Norfolk, Gateshead, Rochdale, Telford and Wrekin, and Kingston upon Thames are currently drawing up compacts to test the approach.

The jointly agreed statement includes a paragraph which recognises the distinctive leadership role of local education authorities in their communities in setting out the vision for education and bringing together different partners to achieve change and improvement. It says the partnership will focus on continuing the progress already made in primary education, transforming secondary education, developing a flexible and challenging 14-19 phase and transforming the school workforce, in particular freeing teachers to focus on their professional responsibilities.