What role for Local Authorities in Education?

According to latest Government figures, there are now 1350 academies in England.

This Government has declared its intention to make all schools academies – an extension of the previous government’s policy which introduced academy status but only as a way of improving failing schools.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, says that academy schools will benefit from greater freedoms and flexibilities and be freed from local authority control.

An academy school is a publicly funded independent school, that is no longer maintained by the local authority, but is directly funded by and accountable to the Department for Education.

However, Michael Gove has said that: “in a more autonomous schools system, local authorities have a crucial role to play” in “championing parents and families, supporting vulnerable families and championing education excellence”.

The government insists that councils will still perform a “strong strategic” role in education.

Politicians, educational professionals and unions are now arguing about what this means and jostling for a position in this new world order. But there are bigger issues around accountability and scrutiny in education that existed before any schools became academies.

The real challenge is to define a new role for local authorities that provides effective local accountability and scrutiny of education without them having to interfere with the day-to-day running of schools, or necessarily providing education itself.