Eduucation authorities lobby for survival

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Indy Politics
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County Councils are embarking on intense lobbying of ministers to try to salvage at least part of their role in education, writes Donald MacLeod.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, intends to strip local education authorities progressively of funding powers as more schools become grant-maintained, and to share their planning powers with a national agency.

The Conservative-dominated Association of County Councils will try to persuade ministers that parents' interests are best served by local democratic bodies.

The counties know that if Mr Patten's forthcoming Education Bill removes virtually all responsibility for education, their biggest function, they will be that much easier to abolish.

Tory shires will point out the practical difficulties of dividing responsibility between local authorities and a national agency when it comes to siting new schools or closing unviable ones. Small schools in rural areas - always an emotive subject - will be at risk, Mr Patten will be told.

David Muffet, chairman of Hereford and Worcester's education committee, said that when a primary school in his area burnt down it was reopened after only a day in the hall of a nearby secondary school. 'Who is going to tell grant-maintained schools to do this, that or the other because a school has burnt down?'