Local authority schools outperform academies, say councils

Schools should be able to choose whether to break free from council control, the Local Government Association says

Schools should have the freedom to choose whether they become an academy – and the government should recognise the role that councils can play in improving education, the Local Government Association (LGA) said today.

The call came as the LGA published a new analysis which shows that 81 per cent of council-maintained schools are rated as “good” or “outstanding”, under the current inspection framework, compared with 73 per cent of academies and 79 per cent of free schools.

Figures pre-dating the introduction of the education watchdog’s more rigorous inspection scheme – including some which have not been assessed in at least five years – shows some 86 per cent of council-maintained schools are “good” or “outstanding”. This compared with 82 per cent of academies and 79 per cent of free schools.

Council leaders are now calling on the government to withdraw plans to force all schools to become academies by 2022, as outlined in its recent white paper.

And their call comes on the same day The Times reports that education secretary Nicky Morgan is preparing to make a u-turn over universal academisation in the light of growing Tory opposition to the plans.

The paper reported she could make a series of concessions, include allowing the best-performing councils to run their own academy chains and allowing councils to direct academies to expand to provide new school places.

Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said its analysis of the Ofsted grades demonstrates that councils are partners in improving education, rather than barriers to it.

“With 86 per cent of council-maintained schools in England rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted,” he said. “The Government needs to recognise councils’ role in education improvement, and that imposing structural changes on schools is not the best way to improve education.

“Instead, schools need the freedom to choose, in partnership with parents and councils, whichever structure is most appropriate for them, and more pressing issues such as the need for more school places and the growing teacher recruitment crisis need to be addressed urgently to make sure that all schools can deliver the best possible education for every child.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said that if the rumour of a U-turn proved true, it would still be a small climb-down.

She said: “While it sounds as though the government is being forced into making concessions to its plans to force all schools to become academies, these do not go nearly far enough.

“The government will still be left as judge and jury over whether local authorities meet its criteria to run schools.”

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