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08.02.16

‘Astonishing’ that May thinks PCCs should run schools, but not councils – NUT

It is “astonishing” that senior ministers thinks councils are not suitable to run schools yet police and crime commissioners (PCCs) are, the largest teachers’ union has said in response to home secretary Theresa May’s controversial speech last week.

In her speech to think tank Policy Exchange, May said she would like to see the PCC role, first created in 2012, expanded even further – including by allowing them to set up “alternative provision” free schools to support troubled children.

She said central government will set out these proposals, which she is developing alongside justice secretary Michael Gove, after the May elections.

“As Adam Simmonds [PCC for Northamptonshire] has argued, I believe the next set of PCCs should bring together the two great reforms of the last Parliament – police reform and school reform – to work with and possibly set up alternative provision free schools to support troubled children and prevent them from falling into a life of crime,” May said.

The home secretary has also been exploring what role they could play in the wider criminal justice system, such as in youth justice, probation and court services, across which there are “real efficiencies to be had from better integration and information sharing”.

“We have yet to decide the full extent of these proposals and the form they will take, but I am clear that there is significant opportunity here for PCCs to lead the same type of reform they have delivered in emergency services in the wider criminal justice system,” she continued.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) attacked May’s proposal, calling it “quite an extraordinary suggestion”.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary at the union, said: “Theresa May cites an example of the Northamptonshire PCC opening a new free school with a ‘crime specific curriculum’, whatever that may be. No state schools should be opening up with a limited vision for education.

“We need an inclusive, engaging curriculum that meets the needs of all students and we need schools to be answerable to their local community and run by their local authority. It is astonishing that government thinks local authorities are not considered suitable to run schools yet PCCs are.”

As well as criticising the government for “continually making the mistake” of thinking anyone can run schools, Courtney also slammed the cuts to pupil referral units that support “the very children and young people these new free schools are purported to be created for”.

“This makes neither economic nor logical sense,” he argued.

In her speech, May also indicated that PCCs should be brought together with directly elected mayors under the government’s devolution scheme, as is being done in Greater Manchester.

She said: “Alongside the expansion of PCC responsibilities, the development of powerful directly elected mayors provides a fantastic opportunity, where there is local agreement and boundaries make sense, to bring together policing with local transport, infrastructure, housing and social care services under a single directly elected mayor.

“I know many PCCs have engaged with local proposals, and I would encourage them to continue to do so – because I am clear that PCCs’ consent is a prerequisite for the inclusion of policing in any mayoral deal.”

Under separate legislation to integrate the police, fire & rescue and ambulance services, the government is also seeking to allow PCCs to create a single employer for police and fire staff.

But the LGA argued that there is no pressing need to change councillors’ involvement with fire and rescue authorities, warning Whitehall “should not impose change for change’s sake” and without a watertight business plan.

PSE has asked the LGA for comment on May’s fresh claims but has not yet heard back.

(Top image c. Joe Giddens, PA Wire)

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