Education: Schools hit squad prepares to move on Hackney

An inspectors' report on Hackney local education authority in London to be published tomorrow will be highly critical. Ministers will take powers to take over failing education authorities in this autumn's Education Bill but they do not have them yet. What can they do? Judith Judd and Lucy Ward examine the options.

A team of three or four experts appointed by the Government is expected to be drafted into Hackney to sort out the struggling north-east London authority.

Ministers were last night still wrestling with details of what powers the team, which would include officers from other local authorities, would have. They are hoping a chief education officer, present or retired, might head the group.

The Government wants to portray the team as a hit squad to prove it is showing "zero tolerance" of educational failure. It acknowledges, however, that any intervention would need to be accepted by Hackney.

The main precedent is that of Calderdale, the West Yorkshire authority responsible for the Ridings School, which was criticised in an inspection report last March. The then education minister, Gillian Shephard, announced plans to draft in a team of education experts, but no outside consultants were ever sent in and the Government has just given the authority the all-clear to put its recovery plan into action unaided.

Hackney, however, is in greater difficulties than Calderdale, with a number of senior officer posts unfilled. The authority has no permanent director in charge of schools, but plans to advertise the post later this month and appoint a consultant in the meantime.

Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, sent inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education into Hackney in June. He said that the borough was suffering from "lack of direction and drift". The only statutory powers which would enable the Government to take control of Hackney and remove powers from elected politicians relate to local authorities as a whole. These would enable a board of commissioners to start running the whole council, not just the education service.

Experts doubt whether a report on schools, however damning, would provide sufficient grounds for sending in commissioners. One said yesterday: "It is a procedure which would normally only be used if everyone's hand was found to be in the till."

If Hackney proves resistant to ministers' proposals, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, will threaten a legal takeover once the Government has the necessary power, possibly as early as next spring.

Sources at the Department for Education and Employment said no final decision had been taken on a government response to the report but acknowledged: "We are not at this stage looking at taking over the schools."

The authority yesterday insisted it had seen only a draft of the Ofsted report.

The initial inspection phase centred on the authority itself. Inspectors were scheduled to visit schools during a second phase.

Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association which represents councils said: "We can't stand idly by and see an education authority that to all intents and purposes does not exist. You might argue that some authorities are ineffective but this one is not even operating."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - North West London, £35-40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant (ACCA / CIMA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Team

£11 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A 10 year old girl who has profound an...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore