The Labour Party would put schools in local hands. The party’s education policy would ensure local oversight of free schools and academies to drive up standards.
Nothing is more important for young people than enhancing their life chances, liberating their potential and encouraging their contribution to a globally competitive and modern economy. Yet, instead of a relentless focus on raising standards over the past four years, we have seen incoherence, confusion, a lack of accountability and, above all, a fractured school landscape.
The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, recently described English education as “atomized”.
The Conservative chair of the House of Commons education select committee, Graham Stuart, says we “have ministers trying to run schools from a desk in Whitehall”. More than half of secondary schools are now being run centrally.
Allegations over the past two months regarding the alleged “Operation Trojan Horse” in Birmingham have highlighted these concerns. As have the scandals of the Al-Madinah free school, Discovery New School and King’s Science Academy, all given the worst Ofsted ratings or forced to close completely. This is what can happen when proper monitoring and oversight do not exist.
My report for the Labour party’s policy review, published today, has sought to focus on a strategy for school improvement. According to Ofsted, there are 1.5 million children in underperforming schools. Clearly the education secretary, Michael Gove, has adopted the wrong formula.
Local oversight of schools will help to keep a check on performance, timely interventions in schools to support those at risk of failing, and partnerships between schools to help each one to improve.
Two overriding objectives are set out; a relentless drive to raise standards and to offer equal opportunity, facilitated by bringing coherence to the chaotic schools system. This will give parents the confidence that, wherever they live, their schools will be supported locally and challenged to improve.
To spread best practice, ensure probity and the equitable use of public funds, and to ensure transparency and accountability locally, there is need for a devolved schools system. The recommendations include a blueprint for a major shift in English education – away from the centre and towards the frontline.
A core recommendation is that key functions currently exercised centrally by the education secretary would be devolved to the new post of an independent director of school standards at the local level.
These local directors of school standards will monitor, support and challenge schools to improve, driving up standards in underperforming and “fragile” schools. Local oversight of all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, will ensure that the kind of underperformance being spotted too late by the Department for Education will be addressed.
The directors will be appointed locally, be accountable locally, and be free to bring both pressure and support where needed.
-The UK Guardian.