Councils call for powers to intervene in failing schools

Councils are calling for high-performing local authority controlled schools to be able to sponsor struggling ones without having to go through academy status first.

The Local Government Association says that more than 80% of council-maintained schools are rated as 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted, but “bureaucratic barriers” stop councils from intervening in underperforming schools.

The LGA wants these barriers removed to allow high performing maintained schools to help raise educational standards in other schools, including taking on the running of failing academies.

The organisation points to new research by NFER that shows, on average, pupils attending maintained schools achieved the same high standard of GCSE results in 2014 as those attending academies.

It also points to government statistics which show that only three out of the 20 largest academy chains are performing above the national average on an ‘added value' measure, compared to 44 out of 100 councils.

The LGA is also concerned that there is a lack of potential academy sponsors to take on large numbers of additional schools with the Department for Education already halting the expansion of some of the largest academy chains in response to over-rapid growth.

Cllr David Simmonds CBE, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "Councils are education improvement partners and not a barrier to change.

“Schools spend billions of pounds of public money yet at present, there is no rigorous accountability for academies that are ‘coasting'; no clear understanding of what happens when one falls into this category; and no risk assessment in place for those rated as 'good' or above.”

Simmons believes the Education and Adoption Bill provides opportunity to give councils th powers they need to intervene in underperforming schools.

“Councils are best-placed to oversee school effectiveness and take immediate action where required,” he added.

“With Regional Schools Commissioners strictly limited to overseeing academic standards, the early warning signs of failing such as safeguarding concerns or financial problems risk being overlooked. It is not acceptable that we have to wait for poor exam results or an Ofsted inspection to trigger intervention.

“With oversight by councils and strong links built with RSCs, mums and dads would be reassured that a council's regular contact with their school will ensure nothing falls through the cracks."

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