Town halls want more power to intervene at failing academies

Head of the Local Government Association David Sparks
Head of the Local Government Association David Sparks
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COUNCILS want to wrestle power away from Whitehall and Ofsted by making all schools accountable to a single local body.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for all schools to be monitored by a local education trust – with councils given powers to intervene whenever there are failures.

If these plans were to be approved by a new Government it could mean the role of regional school commissioners – being introduced this September to monitor academies – would be scrapped.

There are currently more than 4,000 academies and free schools answerable to the Government amid fears that the Department for Education (DfE) is unable to monitor them all from a desk in Whitehall.

A damning report by the Public Accounts Committee last month warned that the DfE did not have effective oversight of how money was being spent in these schools and was too slow to intervene when failures emerge.

It highlighted the Kings Science Academy free school, in Bradford – now being investigated over alleged fraud – as an example of this.

Now the LGA is calling for the next government to make all state schools work together in education “trusts”.

Parents should have access to a single, local body responsible for holding their children’s school to account, regardless of what type of state school they attend, council leaders have said.

The proposed trusts, which could be set up in every area of England – and overseen by councils, would be a single point of contact for families and cover all types of state school, including academies, free schools and those run by local authorities, it said today.

The LGA said while councils are still responsible for 84 per cent of schools, they lack adequate powers to hold these schools to account. The LGA has also warned the DfE does not have the capacity and local knowledge to oversee every academy and free school in the country.

The DfE has already created eight new regional school commissioners who will be responsible for opening new academies and monitoring the performance of academies and free schools in their areas. Elections are currently taking place for membership on new head teachers boards which will support the work of the commissioners.

However The Yorkshire Post understands the planned trusts would replace the role of the regional school commissioners.

The LGA also wants to reduce the role of Ofsted with trusts being responsible for monitoring school standards, providing peer support and reviews and with councils having the power to intervene when schools fail.

Councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Every child deserves a good education at a local school and establishing education trusts will empower councils to ensure this happens across their local area. The current two-tier system of accountability is confusing for mums and dads to navigate and with different organisations responsible for different elements of education, there are too many possibilities for issues raised by mums and dads to slip through the net.

“Education trusts would strip away this bureaucracy and provide an easily identifiable place which parents can turn to.

“Someone has to take responsibility for the accountability of schools and with local knowledge and links to the community councils are ideally placed to take this role on their education trust.”