Councils must be given academy intervention powers, says LGA
The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to give local authorities the power to tackle poorly performing academies and free schools.
The comments followed the publication of Ofsted’s annual report which highlighted concerns about “mediocre” teaching and leadership in some schools and the lack of consistent performance standards across regions.
The report finds that 60 per cent of pupils now attend primary schools graded as good or better in all but three local authorities, compared with 23 councils in 2011/12. However, there are 13 local authorities where less than half of all pupils attend a good or outstanding secondary school.
It recognises that some councils have been rebuffed in their attempts to engage poorly performing academies but says they must do more to drive up standards.
“If local authorities are to play any future part in raising standards, they must use their existing powers more effectively and encourage the systematic involvement of good and outstanding leaders to support weaker schools,” it states.
But David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said questions about the performance of academies need to be “asked elsewhere” because councils don’t have powers to intervene.
He said: “Councils already have a role to play in driving and supporting school improvement, but no power to intervene in academies or keep an eye on academy finances.
“We know council oversight of schools works and with first-hand knowledge of their local area, councils are in a much stronger position to intervene at an early stage than an academy chain in another county or a civil servant in Whitehall.
“Councils have a responsibility for school improvement – now give us the funding and powers to intervene in any struggling school.”
In his annual report, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw also highlighted the “significant underachievement” of children from low-income families, particularly among white children, and the need for schools to manage classroom behaviour better, as problems that need addressing.
He said: “It is not an exaggeration to report that the story of our schools and colleges today is a tale of two nations. Children from similar backgrounds with similar abilities, but who happen to be born in different regions and attend different schools and colleges, can end up with widely different prospects because of the variable quality of their education.
“Classrooms must be orderly places. Around 700,000 pupils attend schools where behaviour needs to improve. Unless this changes, teachers will struggle to create an environment in which all children learn well.”
Wilshaw also announced that from January 2014, Ofsted inspectors will carry out unannounced visits to schools that have previously had problems with poor classroom behaviour.