Labour reforms criticised by ASCL


Proposed Labour reforms could damage head teachers' autonomy and risk significantly undermining thousands of state schools, according to one of the country’s top head teachers.

Ian Bauckham, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the introduction of a new wave of 'standards tsars' will damage heads' autonomy and place control back in the hands of town hall bureaucrats.

He went on to say that Labour was in danger of turning the clock back several years by reinstating local authority control over education and stripping power away from individual schools.

Mr Bauckham also criticised plans to ban academies from employing unqualified teachers – a power introduced by Michael Gove to put them on par with private schools.

The power was often used by schools to employ dance instructors or rugby coaches to plug specific gaps in the workforce, he said, branding the proposed change as "completely bonkers".

The Labour party is proposing to introduce a new wave of Directors of School Standards to monitor schools, including academies, following the so-called “Trojan Horse” affair in Birmigham. Each DSS will be appointed by local panels including council bosses.

But Mr Bauckham, the head of Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said schools had to be “free to make mistakes”.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he said: “We will see a backsliding into local authority control of schools.

“If academies are brought into the remit of the Director of School Standards it will significantly undermine their autonomy. I think that will be bad for a school-led system.

“You will slide back into a compliance mind-set among head teachers. ‘We do what the Director of School Standards tells us to do, no more and no less, and then we’ve done our job’.

“If you are going to have a system that’s genuinely school-led and self-improving then you need the buck to stop with the school, with the head teachers and the governing bodies.”

Labour has also pledged to give all schools the same freedom to run their own affairs, including those funded by the local council.

But Mr Bauckham said it would undermine the academies programme. He said: “If you simply say all local authority maintained schools have the same freedoms as academies you will have a huge mess to unpick.

“I think it would be misleading and potentially dangerous because freedom only works with that real sense of accountability.”

However, Mr Hunt said parents need to know that falling standards will be spotted before problems become entrenched.

In a further move, Labour has pledged to scrap the right of schools to employ unqualified teachers. Under a Labour government, all teachers would be forced to work towards full qualified teacher status (QTS).

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