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The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was the education authority for the 12 inner London boroughs from 1965 until its abolition in 1990.

ILEA's Inner London
within Greater London
LondonInner.png

The Inner London Education Authority was established when the Greater London Council (GLC) replaced the London County Council as the principal local authority for London in 1965. The LCC had taken over responsibility for education in Inner London from the London School Board in 1904. In what was to become Outer London, education was primarily administered by the relevant county councils and county boroughs, with some functions delegated to second-tier councils in the area.

The Herbert Commission report in 1960 recommended the establishment of the Greater London Council. It advocated a London-wide division of educational powers between the GLC and the London boroughs. The GLC would be responsible for strategic control of schools, and the boroughs for routine management. This part of the report was rejected by the government. Councils in the future Outer London area wanted greater control over education, preventing the creation of a London-wide LEA, and there was strong opposition from teachers and other bodies to the idea of dividing up the LCC LEA. The London Government Act 1963 therefore created the ILEA to inherit the educational responsibilities of the LCC, and gave Outer London boroughs LEA status. The ILEA was originally conceived as a provisional body whose status would be reviewed before 1970, but the Labour government made its status permanent in 1965.

The ILEA did not cover the small area of North Woolwich, which was part of the County of London but was transferred to the new London Borough of Newham in outer London.

The ILEA had a somewhat anomalous legal status. Technically the GLC itself was the education authority for inner London, but it was both administratively difficult and politically unjust to allow outer London members of the GLC to have an input. Therefore the GLC delegated responsibility to the ILEA as a 'special committee', consisting of the members of the GLC from the Inner London area, plus one member delegated from each of the inner London boroughs and the City of London. Members of the GLC/ILEA tended to concentrate on one duty only, although they attended the meetings of both.

It was possible for ILEA to have a majority of Labour members when the GLC had a majority of Conservative members, and this happened from 1970 to 1973 and 1977 to 1981. In addition, most of the important decisions taken by the ILEA were taken by its Education Committee, on which every member sat. The Education Committee could also co-opt members with experience of education, some of them representing the teaching unions.

The initial composition of ILEA in 1964 was 43 Labour members to 9 Conservatives, with one Independent. After the 1967 election the Conservatives won a majority, and Christopher Chataway became Leader. However, Labour won control in 1970 and Ashley Bramall began his long leadership. His term saw ILEA go over to comprehensive education, and the abolition of school corporal punishment. He retained power despite the Conservative election victory in the 1977 GLC elections.

When the left under Ken Livingstone won control of the GLC after the 1981 elections, Bramall lost his position in an internal Labour Party vote, being replaced by Bryn Davies. Ken Livingstone later expressed regret for this decision and expressed his admiration for Bramall's leadership abilities. The remaining years of ILEA saw a succession of left-wing leaderships, none of which lasted long or established a strong reputation. Frances Morrell, formerly an assistant to Tony Benn, led a feminist ILEA from 1983 to 1987, before Neil Fletcher took over.

The ILEA had fought off one attempt to abolish it in 1980. The abolition of the GLC, announced in 1983, led to another attempt to get rid of the ILEA, but the Inner London Boroughs were adjudged not ready to handle education services. The Conservative government was led by Margaret Thatcher, who had grown to dislike ILEA as over-spending and over-bureaucratic while Education Secretary in the early 1970s, and would have liked to abolish it. Initially the proposal was to replace it with a joint board nominated by the inner London Boroughs, but eventually it decided to keep the ILEA as a directly elected body. In May 1986, each London Parliamentary constituency elected two members of ILEA. Labour won an easy election victory.

Backbench Conservative MPs continued to oppose the continuation of the ILEA. The Education Reform Bill of Kenneth Baker proposed to allow Boroughs who wanted to opt out of ILEA and become education authorities. However, the Government's hand was forced when an amendment was tabled in the House of Commons by Norman Tebbit and supported by Michael Heseltine to abolish ILEA altogether. This unlikely alliance was particularly notable as Tebbit and Heseltine represented very different ideological wings of the Conservative Party. It was also the source of some local controversy at the time, as both members represented constituencies (Chingford and Henley repectively) well outside the ILEA area.

The Government announced on 4 February 1988 that it would accept the Tebbit/Heseltine amendment and abolish ILEA in 1990 as part of the Education Reform Act 1988. Once the Bill was passed, ILEA then complied with this decision in the interests of education. The inner London boroughs then became education authorities, and remain so today.

It is little known that the ILEA had its own schools broadcasting service, the Educational Television Service, based at Tennyson Road, London SW8, near Queenstown Road (formerly Queens Road) railway stations. This television centre had two functional television studios, a training studio, a master control and sound and vision mixing suites. The Director of this enterprise was James Wykes, MA.

Leaders of the Inner London Education Authority

Although ILEA was created in 1964 and came into power in 1965, the post of Leader did not exist until April 1967. For the period 1964-67 the de facto Leadership was shared between the Chairman of the Education Committee, James Young, and the Chairmen of the Authority, Harold Shearman (1964-1965) and Ashley Bramall (1965-1967).

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