Under New Management? ; Local Education Authorities Are in Crisis. It's Time to Change the Way Educational Services Are Managed, Says Peter Mortimore
Mortimore, Peter, The Independent (London, England)
From the Balfour Act of 1902 until the Baker Act of 1988, the main engine of the education system was the local education authority. The LEA was responsible for the planning, building, opening and closing of schools and for most other educational services.
The situation today is very different: LEAs are hanging on by their fingertips. The previous Conservative government set in motion the creation of a set of extremely small authorities, carved out of large County Councils. Making such small LEAs cost effective will test the skills and ingenuity of even the best education officers. Now the present Government is busy establishing a set of Education Action Zones with powers that, confusingly, cut across those of the LEAs and muddle the responsibilities of elected local councillors.
Ofsted inspectors - acting on behalf of central government - are inspecting LEAs and declaring a number of them unsuitable to run their own educational services. The situation whereby one tier of a democratic government uses public money to investigate the efficacy of another tier (also democratically elected) and, if it does not like what it finds, has power to recommend the privatisation of its services is worthy of Kafka. The outcome for local citizens, however, is far from fictional: local electors and council payers will no longer have a direct relationship with the schools in their area and schools may be run by profit-making companies with few or no local connections.
I am not opposed - in principle - to using commercial companies to run educational services. But I am worried that the profit motive may prove incompatible with quality and may distort the service that is offered to citizens. Educational needs will have to compete with those of the shareholders seeking a financial return on their investment. Furthermore, I am concerned that the democratic link between local representation and local services is being lost.
Ironically, I suspect that the commercial organisations - far from introducing new blood untainted by local government - will headhunt current or former LEA officers. Certainly this appears to be the case with those who have been identified as holding …
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Publication information: Article title: Under New Management? ; Local Education Authorities Are in Crisis. It's Time to Change the Way Educational Services Are Managed, Says Peter Mortimore. Contributors: Mortimore, Peter - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 2, 2000. Page number: 77. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.