Give councils academy accountability role, says LGA

26 May 15

Government plans to intervene in ‘coasting’ schools must include an expanded role for councils to hold academies and free schools to account, the Local Government Association has said.

Ahead of the Queen’s Speech, which set out plans to force schools rated as ‘requiring improvement’ by Ofsted to become academies, the group stated councils could provide democratic accountability in the sector.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has indicated that where it was clear that a school does not have the capacity or the plan to get themselves out of ‘requires improvement’ grade to either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, they would be given additional support and may be converted to an academy.

The LGA said today the legislation must also end the situation where councils can be held responsible, through duties of care, for the decisions of impendent academies and free schools, but cannot take action themselves when failings occur.

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said parents expected their local authority 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,’ he added.

‘Changed structures alone won't drive improvement without good head teachers, effective teaching, and teamwork by governors and support staff.’

The LGA highlighted that the last parliament had seen a large increase in the number of academies, as well as the introduction of free schools.

Although these schools are funded directly from Whitehall by the Education Funding Agency, central government does not have the capacity and local knowledge to oversee England’s 4,400 academies, the group highlighted.

Councils should therefore be given greater powers to hold all schools in their areas accountable for the quality of the education they provide.

As well as including powers to intervene in problems at academies, the LGA also called on the Department for Education to make it easier for councils to intervene swiftly in grant-maintained schools. Currently, overly bureaucratic processes make it difficult for councils to do so.

Today’s statement also questioned what would happen under the plans for increased ‘academisation’ to the 473 existing academies that Ofsted has judged to require improvement.

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