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Local education authorities in England and Wales

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Local education authorities (LEAs) were defined in England and Wales as the local councils responsible for education within their jurisdictions. The term was introduced by the Education Act 1902 which transferred education powers from school boards to existing local councils.

There have been periodic changes to the types of councils defined as local education authorities. Initially, they were the councils of counties and county boroughs. From 1974 the local education authorities were the county councils in non-metropolitan areas and the district councils in metropolitan areas. In Greater London, the ad hoc Inner London Education Authority existed from 1965 to 1990. Outer London borough councils have been LEAs since 1965 and inner London borough councils since 1990. Unitary authorities created since 1995 have all been LEAs.

The functions of LEAs have varied over time as council responsibilities for local education have changed. Since 2010, the term no longer appears in legislation, but is often used to distinguish local authorities with education functions from those without them.





The term was introduced by the Education Act 1902 (2 Edw. 7. c. 42). The legislation designated each local authority; either county council and county borough council; would set up a committee known as a local education authority (LEA).[1] The councils took over the powers and responsibilities of the school boards and technical instruction committees in their area.

Municipal boroughs with a population of 10,000 and urban districts with a population of 20,000 were to be local education authorities in their areas for elementary education only.

In 1904 the London County Council became a local education authority, with the abolition of the London School Board. The metropolitan boroughs within London were not education authorities, although they were given the power to decide on the site for new schools in their areas, and provided the majority of members on boards of management.

The LEAs' role was further expanded with the introduction of school meals in 1906 and medical inspection in 1907.[1]



The Education Act 1944 changed the requirements for delegation of functions from county councils to districts and boroughs. The population requirement for excepted districts became 60,000 or 7,000 pupils registered in elementary schools.[2] The Local Government Act 1958 permitted any county district to apply for excepted district status.

In 1965 the London County Council, Middlesex County Council and the councils of the county boroughs of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham were replaced by the Greater London Council. The twenty outer London boroughs became local education authorities, while a new Inner London Education Authority, consisting of the members of the GLC elected for the twelve inner London boroughs covering the former County of London was created.[3]

In 1974 local government outside London was completely reorganised. In the new metropolitan counties of England and Wales, metropolitan boroughs became LEAs. In the non-metropolitan counties the county councils were the education authorities.[4]

In 1986, with the abolition of the Greater London Council, the Inner London Education Authority became directly elected. This however only lasted until 1990, when the twelve inner London boroughs assumed responsibility for education.

In 1989, under the Education Reform Act 1988, the LEAs lost responsibility for higher education, with all polytechnics and colleges of higher education becoming independent corporations.

A further wave of local government reorganisation during the 1990s led to the formation of unitary authorities in parts of England and throughout Wales, which became local education authorities.[5]



The Children Act 2004 defined each local education authority as additionally a children's services authority, with responsibility for both functions held by the director of children's services.[6]





The Local Education Authorities and Children’s Services Authorities (Integration of Functions) Order 2010 removed all reference to local education authorities and children's services authorities from existing legislation, replacing them with the term 'local authority'. A local authority for the purposes of the Education Act 1996 and the Children Act 2004 was defined as the county council, metropolitan district council, unitary authority, London borough council and the Common Council of the City of London. Schedule 1 of the order inserted in the Education Act 1996 a list of 'education functions' for the relevant local authorities.[7] Despite the term becoming obsolete, 'local education authority' continues to be used to distinguish local authorities with education functions from those without them.[8]



In Wales the councils of the counties and county boroughs are responsible for education. Since 5 May 2010, the terms local education authority and children's services authority have been repealed and replaced by the single term 'local authority' in both primary and secondary legislation.[9]



Local education authorities had some responsibility for all state schools in their area.

  • They are responsible for distribution and monitoring of funding for the schools
  • They are responsible for co-ordination of admissions, including allocation of the number of places available at each school
  • They are the direct employers of all staff in community and VC schools
  • They have a responsibility for the educational achievement of looked-after children, i.e. children in their care[10]
  • They have attendance and advisory rights in relation to the employment of teachers, and in relation to the dismissal of any staff[11]
  • They are the owners of school land and premises in community schools.[12]

Until recently,[when?] local education authorities were responsible for the funding of students in higher education (for example undergraduate courses and PGCE) whose permanent address is in their area, regardless of the place of study. Based on an assessment of individual circumstances they offer grants or access to student loans through the Student Loans Company.

Education functions


Statutory education functions for local authorities in England are as follows:[7]

  • Making of byelaws relating to the employment of children.
  • Payment of injury benefit to or in respect of teachers.
  • Powers and duties relating to careers services
  • Duty to provide information to the Secretary of State.
  • General duty to secure that facilities for education are provided without sex discrimination.
  • Power to use a school bus to carry fare-paying passengers.
  • Duty to prepare and revise lists of rooms in school premises which candidates may use.
  • Duty to require the appropriate officer to give an opinion as to whether a child with a statement is disabled.
  • Education supervision orders.
  • Duty to secure that disabled pupils are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.
  • Duty to prepare an accessibility strategy.
  • Duty (as responsible body) to prepare an accessibility plan.
  • Duty relating to the provision of independent advocacy services
  • Duties as an “authorised body” relating to qualifications.
  • Duty to arrange assessments relating to learning difficulties.
  • Duty to implement approved proposals relating to sixth forms.
  • Duty to include certain persons on overview and scrutiny committee if it relates to education functions.
  • Powers and duties relating to education of a child in an accommodation centre.
  • Powers and duties relating to parenting orders and parenting contracts.
  • Duty to make available to the Secretary of State appropriate accommodation for enabling the Secretary of State to arrange for medical inspections in schools.

Relevant local authority


England has several tiers of local government and the relevant local authority varies. Within Greater London the 32 London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London are the local authorities responsible for education; in the metropolitan counties it is the 36 metropolitan borough councils; and in the non-metropolitan counties it is the 21 county councils or, where there is no county council, the councils of the 62 unitary authorities. The Council of the Isles of Scilly is an education authority.[6] There are 153 local education authorities in England.

List of local authorities responsible for education


There are currently 153 local education authorities in England. Below they are listed alphabetically by region.[13]

South West
South East
West Midlands
East Midlands
Yorkshire and the Humber
North West
North East

See also



  1. ^ a b Bryne, T., Local Government in Britain, (1994)
  2. ^ The Municipal Year Book and Encyclopaedia of Local Government Administration. Municipal Journal. 1947.
  3. ^ Saint, A., Politics and the people of London: the London County Council (1889–1965), (1989)
  4. ^ Redcliffe-Maud & Wood, B., English Local Government Reformed, (1974)
  5. ^ Jones, B. et al., Politics UK, (2004)
  6. ^ a b Children Act 2004 c. 31
  7. ^ a b "The Local Education Authorities and Children's Services Authorities (Integration of Functions) Order 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  8. ^ "Local Education Authority (LEA)". Practical Law. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  9. ^ "Open letter regarding the term changes to 'Local Education Authority' and 'Children's Services Authority'". wales.gov.uk.
  10. ^ "A Guide to the Law for School Governors" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. p. 67. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  11. ^ "A Guide to the Law for School Governors" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. p. 86. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  12. ^ "A Guide to the Law for School Governors" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. p. 79. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  13. ^ Department for Education and Skills - LA Contact Details