Councils call for more powers to help struggling schools
Town halls are better at raising education standards than government-appointed officials, the body representing local councils has said.
Almost nine out of 10 council-run primaries and secondaries in England are rated as “good” or “outstanding” – more than than academies or free schools, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
In a new report, the LGA argues that the RSC system lacks the capacity and capability to oversee increasing numbers of schools as the government pushes ahead with plans for all schools to take on academy status.
These commissioners are already responsible for almost a quarter of schools in England – about 5,000 in total, the report says, with each of the eight working with nearly 100 that are judged to be failing or require improvement.
Local authorities perform better in school improvement, the report claims, with 89 per cent of council-run primaries and secondaries judged at least “good” by Ofsted.
A similar proportion of so-called converter academies – those that have converted to academy status – (88.5 per cent) are rated as “good” or “outstanding”, along with 62 per cent of sponsored academies and 82 per cent of free schools.
Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Local councils have consistently proven themselves to be more effective at raising school standards than RSCs and this is no surprise.
“Each council is working with fewer schools, who they have good, longstanding relationships with, and they know what’s needed in their local areas.
“It is simply asking too much to expect RSCs to effectively turn around dozens of schools across a huge area.
“Placing more and more power in the hands of few unelected civil servants, who parents cannot hold to account at the ballot box, is out of sync with the government’s aims to devolve more decision-making and responsibility down to local areas and communities.
“With the government planning to end councils’ role in supporting school improvement and intervening in failing schools from next year, we have yet to be convinced that RSCs have the track record or the capacity to take on responsibility for another 13,000 schools.
“We would urge the government to re-consider its plans for full academisation and to focus on working with councils to ensure all our children get the excellent education they deserve.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said the claims were “nonsense” and the figures were “misleading”.
She added: “It is inevitable that councils oversee a higher proportion of ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools as failing schools are taken out of council control and converted to academies, where after being paired with a strong sponsor they stand the best chance of breaking from their often long histories of underperformance.
“All academies operate under a strict accountability system – more robust than in council-run schools. Regional Schools Commissioners are an important part of that system and thanks to their oversight where issues are identified we will not hesitate to take swift action, something that the council-run system would fail to tackle for years.”