Ministers told to give schools more autonomy

7 Jan 10
MPs have urged the government to ‘step back’ and allow schools greater freedom
By Vivienne Russell

7 January 2010

MPs have urged the government to ‘step back’ and allow schools greater freedom.

The Commons’ children, schools and families select committee said schools felt ‘coerced and constrained’ by a complex web of government policy initiatives and overlapping accountability structures.

Committee chair Barry Sheerman said: ‘The government must do as it says and should let schools and local authorities take charge of improving schools, instead of shifting its priorities and plaguing schools and local authorities with targets, tests and centrally driven initiatives.

‘We now have an accountability structure which is far too complex and which stigmatises and undermines struggling schools. What schools need now is a period of stability and a chance for their own efforts to improve performance to bear fruit.’

The committee’s report, published today, also considered the role of Ofsted, noting that the education watchdog had grown enormously and questioning whether its remit was sustainable in the long term. The MPs recommended that Ofsted’s inspections place less emphasis on test results and more on the quality of teaching and learning inspectors observed in the classroom.

The government has a proposed School Report Card as a fairer and more well rounded means of measuring school performance than test-based league tables. The committee said this had its merits but should not carry an overall score attempting to sum up a school’s performance.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the committee’s recommendations. He said: ‘The current accountability regime is too complex and ineffective. It is fixated on numerical performance indicators and targets that are poorly understood and frequently misused, and it is overdue for a complete redesign.’

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