09 July 2004
Local authorities will continue to play an important part in education despite government moves to give schools greater control over their finances, Education Secretary Charles Clarke insisted this week.
Addressing the education select committee on July 7, Clarke sought to allay concerns that proposed three-year budgets for schools would be the death knell for local education authorities.
'Local government should be and should continue to be the mechanism through which schools are funded,' he said. Clarke added that LEAs were 'very important' in terms of strategic leadership and the establishment of children's trusts.
He dismissed the creation of a national funding agency as unworkable. But he said the current funding mechanism was 'ramshackle' and left schools in a state of uncertainty over future finances.
He admitted that a change in the central-local balance of power was needed to ensure that the money committed to education made it through to the front line.
The move to three-year budgets, and the passporting regime before it, formed part of the government's drive to achieve greater certainty for schools, Clarke said.
In a keynote speech prefiguring the education announcement on July 8, Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed Clarke, saying he saw 'no contradiction' between greater independence for schools and a continuing role for local government.
LEAs would continue to have critical responsibilities for special educational needs and school transport, as well as monitoring performance and taking forward the secondary schools renovation programme.
'The best LEAs have long recognised that they add value not by trying to run their schools directly but by focusing on failure and providing effective support services,' Blair said.
'My concern about LEAs isn't that they will be weak, but that they will not in all cases be sufficiently bold in tackling failure and promoting change in response to parental demand.'