Opinion Former Article

Local school commissioners call - new report

Local, democratically accountable school commissioners should be introduced to help support schools to continue to raise standards, a new report published today by the IPPR think-tank recommends.

The report, Whole System Reform: England’s Schools and the Middle Tier argues that the rapid spread of academies and free schools has created an increasingly fragmented school system which has led to inadequate school place planning and a lack of robust and transparent quality assurance for new school providers.

The report argues that there is now insufficient local oversight of school performance and the creation of locally accountable school commissioners, appointed by partnerships of local authorities across city or county regions, would act to address this vacuum and support better local coordination of education.

The report has been launched at a fringe meeting: Beyond 2015: Who should run our schools? at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
Chaired by NASUWT President Geoff Branner, speakers at the fringe were Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Education and Rick Muir, Associate Director for Policy at the think-tank IPPR.

Patrick Roach said:
“As the number and diversity of providers in education is unlikely to decrease, the government must face up to the implications of a system which has the potential to become highly fragmented and recognise that the challenge of ensuring equity for all children and young people will be greater and require new arrangements for system governance.

“Ministers will need to address the need for better strategic oversight and leverage in the system to ensure it operates in the public interest, is democratically accountable, encourages and promotes genuine teacher autonomy, secures entitlement for all learners and achieves an end to the postcode lottery in education.”

Rick Muir said:
“The model we are proposing here would, we think, provide a common framework for all schools, whether academies, free schools or maintained schools, to be part of the same framework of accountability and school improvement.

“We think it would enable a local, holistic view of the whole school system in an area. It would bring about much great strategic oversight of the post 16 level and link it to the economic development agenda. It would enable local authorities to keep playing their role, including in place planning and special educational needs.

“We think it would reintroduce some form of local voice and local oversight into the school system.”

Nick Gibb said:
“The essence of our reforms is to create a school led education system. It is all about giving professionals the autonomy to run their schools, but within a framework of increased accountability.

“Autonomy doesn’t mean that headteachers can run their school free from scrutiny or demanding standards, it means academies can be run without having to second guess advice or interference from local authorities.”



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