Sponsorship: give local authority schools the same powers as academies, councils say

High-performing maintained schools should be handed the power to sponsor struggling schools owing to a lack of viable academy sponsors, council leaders have said.

Just three of the largest 20 academy chains are capable of taking on additional schools, according to the Local Government Association, which has called for all top schools to be given a more prominent role.

Ministers are bringing in legislation that will require all schools rated “inadequate” by Ofsted to convert to sponsored academy status.

The Education and Adoption Bill currently making its way through Parliament will also require any school deemed to be “coasting” to become an academy and be taken on by a sponsor.

But the LGA argues that by using local authority maintained schools, the government could increase capacity within the school system to support underperforming institutions.

Councillor Roy Perry, chair 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.

“Only 15 per cent of the largest academy chains perform above the national average in terms of progress made by pupils, compared with 44 per cent of councils, which calls into question the capacity of high-quality sponsors to take on additional schools.”

Mr Perry was speaking ahead of the committee stage of the Education and Adoption Bill in the House of Lords, where the LGA will call for an amendment giving maintained schools or local authorities the option to sponsor a failing school.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said becoming an academy was not right for all schools.

“Every school should be allowed to decide what is best for its pupils and staff following consultation with parents, governors and staff,” she said. “The government will be denying parents and staff a say if the only option for struggling schools is to become an academy with the sponsor chosen by the regional schools commissioners. And there is still no evidence that academies raise standards more than any other school.”

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