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LGA: Council-maintained schools outperforming academies

Councils are better at improving school standards than academy sponsors, the LGA has claimed after a new report highlighted there may be a lack of capacity and capability within the Civil Service to press ahead with the government’s school academisation agenda.

Although 45% of sponsored academies have yet to receive a full Ofsted inspection, the LGA said its commissioned research, carried out by Angel Solutions, showed that only 62% of those inspected have been rated as good or outstanding.

In contrast, 89% of council-maintained schools, 88.5% of convertor academies and 82% of free schools were rated good or above.

The LGA is strongly opposed to the government’s support for turning all schools into academies.

The plans were abandoned earlier this year, but the new Education for All Bill includes measures to force schools in the worst-performing local authorities to become academies.

As well as concerns about quality, the LGA has warned that the proposals will cost councils £320m.

Academies and free schools are overseen by Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs), but there are currently just eight active, overseeing more than 5,000 schools, around one in six of which have been rated less than good.

Cllr 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, long-standing 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.”

He added that clearly where a school is failing, regardless of whether it’s council-maintained or an academy that an RSC is responsible for, action must be taken swiftly to raise standards.

“However, that action will be different for every school, and simply changing a structure is rarely the answer,” said Cllr Watts. “Schools must have the freedom to choose the best structure for their pupils, whether that's working with their council, a sponsor or the local RSC.

“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.”

The LGA urged 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”.

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