15 schools' bodies face privatisation

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The Independent Online
MORE FAILING local education authorities will face privatisation of their services in the next two years, Estelle Morris, the Schools minister, said yesterday.

Ministers are likely to intervene in up to 15 more councils after bad inspection reports, she told chief education officers in Warwick.

The future of local authorities is still under discussion in Whitehall and ministers are understood to be watching closely to see how many education authorities fail inspections by Ofsted, the standards watchdog. So far a third of the 150 education authorities have been inspected and four - Leicester, Liverpool and the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney - have brought in outside consultants. Private contractors are running two of Hackney's services and will take over most of those in Islington.

All authorities will have been inspected by 2001.

Ms Morris said: "If necessary, we will step in to ensure that the necessary improvement are made and use our legal intervention powers.

"Our preference is to work with local education authorities to deliver the improvements in partnership. However, we will not watch from the sidelines if authorities are failing their schools and their pupils."

She suggested that authorities should consider whether a private company or another local authority might improve services even before they received an inspection report.

Haringey council in London recently accused the Government of trying to railroad it into privatising services which had not been criticised.

The Local Government Association said some authorities had already begun to ask for outside help.