Education plans will ‘diminish local councils’ and undermine services

The reform of children’s services could be undermined by the
government’s five-year education strategy, the Local Government
Association has warned.

The strategy, launched last week by education secretary Charles
Clarke, will see schools gaining more independence. They will also
be funded by three-year budgets from 2006. Although funding will
officially continue to be channelled through local authorities,
councils will not be allowed to divert the dedicated schools budget
to other services.

Former LGA chair Sir Jeremy Beecham reacted angrily to the
proposals, claiming that the association had not been

Speaking at the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth last week,
Beecham said: “Any attempt to diminish the role of local councils
in education would serve to undermine the thrust of the new
education and children’s agenda.

“Removing responsibility for admissions policies, and weakening the
connection between schools and other local services, would threaten
the development of seamless children’s services.”

Association of Directors of Social Services president Andrew Cozens
added his concerns about the strategy, warning that further
ring-fencing of schools’ budgets “must not be allowed to pose risks
to children’s social services budgets”.

He stressed that this was particularly important where “extra
resources are required in order to implement the government’s new
Children Bill”.

Under the strategy, secondary schools will be entitled to own their
own land and buildings, manage their assets, employ staff, improve
their governing bodies, and forge partnerships with outside
sponsors. By 2008, every secondary school that is up to standard
should be a specialist school.

All schools that are not yet foundation schools will be able to
vote to become one, thereby gaining the right to take decisions
without agreement from the local authority and to administer their
own admissions practices.

However, the “strict requirement” for fair admissions will remain
in order to prevent any extension of selection by ability.

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