LGA and teachers hit out at education bill

18 May 16

Councils and teachers have attacked the Education for All Bill promised in the Queen’s Speech, which would strip local authorities of almost all their remaining education powers.

Protests from Conservative MPs and councillors led ministers to backtrack on an earlier plan to force all schools to become academies.

The Bill instead seeks to “move towards a system where all schools are academies, and all schools are funded fairly”. 

Schools would convert to academies “in the worst performing local authorities and those that can no longer viably support their remaining schools”.

An unspecified “fairer” funding formula will be introduced “to ensure that schools with the same kinds of pupils get the same funding”, a government briefing on the speech said.

Under the Bill, local authorities would lose responsibility for school improvement, and schools would become responsible for finding providers for their excluded pupils.

Local Government Association children and young people board chair Roy Perry said: “The LGA strongly believes that all schools should have the choice to stay with their council or convert to academy status, and remains opposed to any forced academisation.”

Perry, the Conservative leader of Hampshire County Council, said councils had turned round the fortunes of hundreds of schools and “should be regarded as education improvement partners rather than as a barrier to change”.

He said the LGA was  “keen to explore how councils will be considered ‘unviable’ to maintain schools”, given they maintained many more than the largest academy chains.

Losing school improvement powers would force parents to raise problems with one of the eight regional schools commissioners.

Perry said: “We have serious concerns about the capacity and local knowledge of each individual commissioner to effectively hold more than 2,500 schools to account, particularly when each already has between 53 and 133 failing academies to turn around.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said schools faced the first real-terms cuts for a generation, amounting to 8% or more, because the government was freezing cash per pupil but increasing the amount school governors pay to the Treasury for each member of staff.

“The struggle to balance school budgets will be made harder by the government’s plan to rush ahead with a National Funding Formula without the additional funding schools already need,” she said.

Blower added: “Removing key roles from local authorities, in particular any involvement in school improvement, will not help to achieve a sustainably successful school system.

“This reckless plan to sever the link between local government, communities and their local schools puts at risk parental engagement in, and democratic scrutiny of, state schools.”

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