Local councils told they face losing more powers over schools

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TOWN HALL bosses have been told to do more to intervene at failing academies and free schools by Ofsted’s Chief Inspector of Schools.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has told the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) that local authorities do not write to him often enough to flag up concerns about autonomous schools in their area.

Local councils are in “the last chance saloon” in having a role to play in raising standards in schools, he warned.

Academies and free schools are run outside of local education authority’s remit and are answerable to the Department for Education (DfE) rather than the local town hall.

Last week the Local Government Association called for new local trusts to be set up with responsibility for monitoring all schools – regardless of whether they were an academy or not.

The LGA’s plan called for the next Government to adopt a local trust system which would give councils more power to intervene at academies and free schools which were failing.

It comes amid concern that the DfE has been unable to provide oversight for more than 4,000 academies. However at the ADCS conference, Sir Michael warned: “It’s worth bearing in mind that whichever party wins the election, none is promising to reinstate local authority powers.”

He told town hall bosses yesterday that they already had the power and responsibility to intervene if they had concerns about an academy or a free school.

“You can write to the Department or to the sponsor or, indeed, to me as Chief Inspector. The problem is, far too few of you are doing this. My postbag is not exactly bulging with letters from concerned DCSs, imploring Ofsted to go in and inspect a poorly performing school within their boundaries.”

He also called on councils to ensure they were encouraging the best head teachers in their area to work together and to support schools which needed it.

He added: “Your role is no longer to manage the suppliers of education, but to champion its consumers. You must be relentless in the pursuit of excellence, not resting until every school within your boundaries is providing the standard of education your children deserve and which you would want for your own child.”