Call to return school powers to councils

Published on Monday, 16 June 2014 11:25
Written by Govtoday staff

In the wake of investigations in Birmingham, the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities across England and Wales, firmly believes that empowered councils are the solution to holding local schools to account ensuring scrutiny, standards of conduct and support packages to help rebuild both pupil and parent confidence.

With mums and dads rightly expecting their child to receive an excellent education, the LGA is calling for local authorities to have the power to trigger Ofsted inspections, challenge governors, scrutinise budgets, offer support and intervene at an early stage in every school within their area.

Local government has always fully supported school choice and councils have worked with both their primary and secondary schools to convert to academy status if required. However, far too many schools are under notice to improve. Councils, which stand fully prepared and waiting to help, are in many cases left powerless to intervene without negotiating bureaucratic hurdles and obtaining permission from Whitehall.

Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "Whitehall acknowledges that it lacks the capacity and local knowledge to oversee the more than 3,500 academies and free schools in England and parents deserve a local organisation to act as a first port of call if they are not satisfied with the response from their child's school or its governing body.

"Mums and dads concerned about their children's education will always turn to their local council for help. But they are rightly becoming increasingly frustrated when their council is unable to intervene.

"The current two-tier system of accountability is extremely confusing for parents with many not knowing if they should report an issue to their council or the Department for Education. What they do know is that they want their child educated within a safe environment and to the highest level possible. Councils are best placed to ensure that happens.

"It is simply not acceptable that poor exam results or an Ofsted inspection should be the only trigger to identify how a school is performing. At present, there is a real risk of serious issues falling through the gaps and it will not be tolerated by parents or local government. We shouldn't have to wait until somebody blows the whistle to find out that something could have gone wrong. We need to be continually keeping a close eye on school performance.

"Rather than creating new local bodies to provide oversight, the barriers to council intervention should be removed immediately so that councils can use their vast experience, integrity and desire to improve the system and intervene early.

"Councils are held to account by local people and would provide children and parents with a streamlined system that allows high education standards and improvement across the board."

Source: LGA

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