Latest Public Sector News

18.04.16

Academies row reignites on national primary school offer day

As families around the country hear which primary school their child will be going to, the LGA has warned that councils will lose their power to ensure enough school places in future years under the academies plan.

The LGA called for the government to ensure that councils retain their power to force schools to expand, which they are set to lose under proposals in the Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper to turn all schools into academies and free schools by 2022, as well as their obligation to ensure every child has a school place.

They also said that an expected growth in population, with an additional 336,000 primary school places needed by 2024, combined with a lack of suitable sponsors to allow academies to be established, will increase the pressure on schools.

Cllr Roy Perry, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: “Local councils have been working hard to not only fulfil their duty to ensure every child has a school place, but to make sure as many as possible get their first choice – it isn't just about a place for a child, but the right place.

“If proposals within the Education White Paper go forward and all schools convert to academies, councils must be given powers to force schools to expand where this is in the best interests of new and existing pupils. Most academies will be keen to work with their local authorities, but in the minority of situations where this isn't the case, appropriate powers are vital to ensure all children get a suitable place.

“Councils will also need a greater role in judging and approving applications for new schools to make sure they're appropriate for communities, and will need to be able to place vulnerable children in the schools that can offer them the best support.”

According to the Department of Education (DfE) there have been an extra 400,000 primary school places since 2010, but the LGA said that these had been created by converting non-classroom areas, increasing class sizes and diverting money away from school repair programmes.

However, the DfE said that increased academisation meant that the number of children studying at schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ had increased by 30,000 in the past four months.

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, said: “Due to the turbocharged sponsored academy programme hundreds of thousands of children are now getting a better education - a key driver in our mission to spread educational excellence everywhere.

“Parents who find out on Monday which primary school their child will attend can be reassured that the government is doing more than any before to ensure all parents have the choice of a good local school.

“Our white paper reforms are the next step in achieving excellence everywhere by putting control in the hands of the teachers and school leaders who know their pupils best, alongside new measures to more swiftly tackle failing and coasting schools. We want to work constructively with the sector to deliver this and ensure standards continue to rise.”

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