Under new plans, Ofsted could start scrutinising local authorities who it suspects are not providing due support to those in teaching jobs in raising educational standards.
Last month, its chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told delegates at the North of England Education Conference that the schools watchdog would investigate why the standard of schools often varied between local authorities with similar demographics and levels of deprivation.
Now Ofsted has launched a consultation into proposals for it to - as of May - inspect how effectively local authorities are conducting their school improvement functions, particularly in areas where schools were not yet rated 'good' or making sufficiently fast progress.
Instead of assessing all councils at regular intervals, it would instead determine whether an inspection was required based on a range of indicators.
These include the share of children attending a good or better school, attainment levels across the local authority, children's rates of progress in relation to starting points and the volume of qualifying complaints to Ofsted about schools in a local authority area.
During inspections, the watchdog would consider the effectiveness of local authorities' corporate and strategic leadership of school improvement, as well as the extent to which they knew the performance and standards of their schools and focused support on where it was required most.
Moreover, Ofsted would look at how successfully councils identified and intervened in underperforming schools and the impact that their interventions had over time.
It would also gauge local authorities' strategies to support effective leadership and management in schools, their provision of support for and also challenging of school governance and their usage of funding to deliver improvements.
Unlike schools, councils would not be judged on a four-point scale of effectiveness, with Ofsted instead examining their strengths and weaknesses before publishing its findings in a letter, while local authorities not providing an acceptable standard of service delivery could be re-inspected.
These proposals have however been criticised by Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Dr Mary Bousted, who described them as being "highly political" and designed to compel local government to aid the proliferation of academies.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels