Councils should take lead on education reform and school funding allocation – LGA

Published on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:38
Posted by Scott Buckler

Responsibility for the funding and improvement of academies should sit with councils in areas where they form the majority of schools, council leaders said today


With 29 local authorities already having more than half of their secondary schools as academies, and more than 575 in the pipeline, transferring these functions from a Whitehall body to councils would support them to fulfil their statutory duties to "promote high standards and the fulfilment of potential" of local pupils, as well as the role proposed for them in the Schools White Paper as "champions of educational excellence" for all local schools.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils, is suggesting where half or more of secondary schools in any council area become academies, decisions on funding, improvement and intervention should be taken locally to create a fair and transparent process where all schools can see how their funding allocation is worked out.

Currently, academies are funded and supported by the Young Peoples Learning Agency, a quango linked to the Department for Education. In the run up to last year's Schools White Paper, the LGA lobbied for its abolition arguing it was an unnecessary bureaucratic tier between central and local government whose functions would be better devolved to councils. Government subsequently announced the YPLA will cease to exist from April 2012. However, it has proposed the new Education Funding Agency – an executive agency of Government – take over its functions, again creating needless red tape.

Speaking as the National Children and Adult Services conference begins in London today, Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Calculating funding for academies together with other functions need be no different to what councils do for maintained schools. Having the YPLA or the EFA replicate the process again in Whitehall simply isn't cost effective for the taxpayer.

"Every parent quite rightly expects to have a choice of high quality schools for their child. When they have concerns, their first port of call is usually their local council. The council role of holding schools to account and in turn, being held to account by local people will make sure that parents have a champion to ensure schools allow their children to fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions.

"Localism suggests that the Government supports councils in carrying out their responsibility to hold schools to account on behalf of the local community. While expanding school choice for parents and pupils is something that councils endorse, they remain perfectly placed to work with their local schools to oversee a fair admissions process, drive up standards and encourage improvement across the board."

Source: LGA

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