Town hall leaders want to be able to tackle failing academies

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COUNCILS are calling for powers to be able to intervene at academies or free schools at “the first sign of a problem.”

The Local Government Association has called for an end to a situation “where town halls are held responsible for the decision of highly paid head teachers” but cannot hold these people to account if failings occur at their schools.

And it suggested that it was the quality of leadership and teaching at a school which had the biggest impact on standards - not whether it had converted to academy status.

The LGA warned today that ministers have created a “two tier” school system with more than 4,000 academies who are only accountable to Whitehall.

The next Queen’s speech is expected to include plans to allow the Government to turn coasting schools - those found to require improvement by Ofsted and missing Government targets - into academies.

However the LGA is questioning what will happen to the 473 academies which Ofsted already say require improvement.

And it says the local knowledge of councils meant they are the bodies best placed to ensure oversight of schools is effective and intervene swiftly when needed.

Currently local decision making on academies and free schools is made on behalf of the Department for Education by regional school commissioners. Yorkshire has been split into three separate regions as part of this system ; The North comprising North Yorshire, the North East and Cumbria; Lancashire and West Yorkshire and East Midlands and the Humber which includes South Yorkshire, Hull, the East Riding and York.

The Queens speech is expected to extend more powers to these regional school commissioners but the LGA say the same powers must be extended to councils too.

Coun David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people’s board and a Conservative councillor, said: “Mums and Dads rightly expect their local council to be able to help if things are going wrong at their child’s school.

“We need to ensure robust intervention powers for all of those held accountable for school performance. Changed structures alone won’t drive improvement without good head teachers, effective teaching, and teamwork by governors and support staff.”

The LGA said any decision for a school to become an academy to improve its performance should involve consultation with parents and staff and no conversion should be rushed through.

It also said that what mattered to parents was not the structure of a school, but that their children receive an excellent education. The association said the the majority of council-maintained schools are already rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. It also said councils are working hard to ensure all their schools are rated good, but evidence shows that the leadership provided by the head and the professional skill of class teachers makes the most important contribution to improving school standards, not whether the school is an academy.