Powell points to local control as key to better school results

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell
Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell
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GREATER local control is needed to narrow the gap between the best and worst schools, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell will claim today.

Ms Powell will argue that putting more power into the hands of local people will encourage co-operation between schools and that the Government’s focus on academies and free schools has led to a fragmentation of the education system

The last Labour government had a strong focus on reducing local authority control of schools and bringing in outside groups into state education through the academy programme later expanded by the Coalition.

Ms Powell will stop short of arguing for a wholesale return to old-style local education authorities but will make the case for a more joined-up approach at a local level.

Speaking at the Yorkshire Labour Party conference in Sheffield, she will say: “The attainment gap at GCSE is higher now than when David Cameron took office in 2010.

“This is extremely troubling - growing inequality in our education system will hold young people in this region and across the country back for generations. It is vital that we have a renewed focus from Ministers and a whole-system approach to tackling underachievement and disadvantage in education, so that we can raise aspiration and achievement and close the gap. If we fail to do so, the consequences will harm our country’s future success.

“It no longer makes any sense to leave schools outside the localism agenda. We must enable local communities to play their part in supporting their schools.

“In order to have the dramatic impact that is required to improve the life chances of young people in these parts of the country, there must be a better joined-up and strategic approach to school improvement and local oversight that encourages collaboration and fosters innovation and partnership between all stakeholders - school leaders, councillors, multi-academy trusts, businesses and parents.”

This week Sir Michael Wilshaw argued the Government’s ‘northern powerhouse’ plan for the economy of the North would “splutter and die” without ain improvement in school standards having last year warned of an educational north-south divide.

Labour leader Jeremy Corybn is also expected to speak at today’s conference being held in Sheffield.