Give good council-funded schools improvement role, says LGA

9 Nov 15

High performing grant maintained schools should be given additional powers to take over struggling schools, including academies, the Local Government Association said today.

The LGA said called for the government’s Education and Adoption Bill, which is intended to allow for ‘coasting’ schools to be taken over by academy chains, to allow maintained schools to play a direct role in improving education provision.

According to LGA estimates, only 3 of the 20 largest academy chains are able to take on additional schools, so allowing others kinds of school to become sponsors would remove bureaucratic barriers to improvement.

Councils are reporting that a lack of sponsors is hampering their ability to open new schools as academies, as required by law, Roy Perry, chair of the LGA children and young people board, said.

Speaking ahead of the committee stage of the Education and Adoption Bill in the House of Lords today, Perry said schools spend billions of pounds of public money, but there was no rigorous accountability for academies that are ‘coasting’ and no clear understanding of what happens when one falls into this category.

“Only 15% of the largest academy chains perform above the national average in terms of progress made by pupils, compared with 44% of councils, which calls into question the capacity of high-quality sponsors to take on additional schools.

“When putting in place support for a school to improve outcomes for children, the focus should be on the quality and capability of a sponsor – whether that is a sponsor academy, a high performing maintained school, or a local authority.”

The legislation should be amended to allow councils and the best maintained schools to share their extensive experience and expertise to ensure standards rapidly improve, he added.

Backing the LGA’s call, National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower said “forced academisation” risked expanding untried or underperforming academy sponsors.

“Local authorities have a good track record of supporting schools. Furthermore, remaining a maintained school provides a faster route to improvement than becoming a sponsored academy,” she added.

“Both government and, most urgently, the Lords should listen to the LGA’s proposal. If they reject the possibility that councils can intervene in school performance, then it is final and inescapable proof that the Education and Adoption Bill is entirely about ideology and privatisation and nothing to do with raising standards.”

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