Councils want to monitor academy schools


Local authorities should be handed powers to monitor academies in areas where they account for more than half of secondary schools, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.

At the moment, when a school becomes an academy, responsibility for performance transfers to the Department for Education.
There are currently 2,373 academies, which are funded and overseen by central government. In 86 local authority areas, 50 per cent or more of the secondary schools are, or are in the process of becoming, academies.
Council leaders are concerned that, as the number of academies grows, it will become impossible for the performance of such a large number of schools to be monitored from the centre. They fear that without local oversight, standards in schools may fall.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, is calling on the Government to give the responsibility for decisions on funding, improvement and intervention back to councils once an area has reached a point where more than half its secondary schools are academies.
It is concerned that without local intervention poor performance will not be spotted early enough and educational standards may slip.
It believes that the existence of the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which is responsible for the funding of academies, duplicates work already being carried out by councils for the schools they maintain, creating a needless cost to the taxpayer.
The LGA is calling for the functions of the EFA to be devolved to councils in areas where more than half of secondary schools are academies.
Speaking ahead of a debate on the future role of councils in education at the National Children and Adult Services Conference, Councillor David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "Councils have a statutory duty to promote educational excellence in their areas and a central role in challenging and supporting schools that are underperforming.
"Once the majority of secondary schools in an area have converted to academies, does the Secretary of State for Education have the capacity to monitor the performance of, and provide support to individual schools? We are concerned that by sheer weight of numbers some academies may be left to fall through the cracks.
"Councils have a proven track record of making sure all schools are accountable to the communities they serve. We want to make sure that councils continue to have a central role in championing educational excellence in their areas and of challenging schools to improve where they fall short."