Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Parent survey of Local Authority role in education shows potential support for Green Party policies

I print below the full press release from London Councils on the YouGov poll they commissioned on parents' views of the role of local authorities in education.  Green Party policy adopted at our Spring Conference is for the restoration of LAs power to build new schools where they are needed and for the integration of academies and free schools into the LA system.  Labour Party policy, especially on academies and free schools, has not broken free from Coalition policies.

The survey shows that we have a potential audience amongst parents for these policies.
  • Leadership: 41 per cent of parents would turn to their council first if they had governance and leadership concerns – only 28 per cent say Ofsted.
  • Free schools: 68 per cent feel that local authorities should have powers to intervene in these schools, an increase of 6 percentage points from last year.
  • School places:  81 per cent support council influence over school places, up from 76 per cent last year.
London parents would turn to their local authority first if they had concerns about their local schools, a new survey reveals.

In the first survey of London parents since the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal, the highest proportion, 41 per cent, of parents said their first point of contact if they were concerned about governance and leadership in their child’s school would be their local authority - 28 per cent said Ofsted, 4 per cent said central government.

The poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of London Councils, which represents London’s 33 local authorities, also found rising support from parents for councils to have a role in underperforming free schools.  Of those polled, 68 per cent of parents considered that local authorities should have power of influence over free schools, up by 6 percentage points from last year.

Asked whether they support councils having influence over all schools in their area (including free schools and academies) to find more school places or expand, 81 per cent of parents agreed – up from 76 per cent last year.

Cllr Peter John, London Councils’ Executive member for children and young people, said: “If you’re a parent and you’re worried about leadership or staff issues at your local school, it’s only natural you’d turn to your local council where they know the local issues. But councils don’t have formal oversight over free schools and academies, which is evidently confusing for parents, as this survey reveals.

“What’s more, parents increasingly support a council role in influencing schools to expand, if there is clear local need to build more places. This isn’t surprising given the scale of the shortage in London.
“Of course head teachers should run schools day-to-day, but it’s clear from this survey that on the wider issues, parents want a council role. The government should listen to mums and dads and allow councils to act in parents’ interests.”

Pressure on school places continues to rise in London due to a recent baby boom. London needs to create 133,000 primary and secondary school places by 2018, according to recent London Councils’ analysis (1). Councils are responsible for providing a place for every child, but cannot open schools themselves or direct academies to expand in areas of need.

83 per cent said there is an important council role in ensuring education standards are high in schools, up slightly from 82 per cent who said this last year.

The poll also revealed that 51 per cent of parents thought the education system was more under central government control than they had previously assumed.

There was also a modest 3 per cent rise (from 29 per cent in 2013 to 32 per cent in 2014) in parents opposed to the idea of moving toward more academies and free schools.

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