Monday, 1 September 2014

Parents 'want councils to have powers to act on failing free schools'

With Michaela  Free School due to open on September 15th and Brent Council committed to talks with free schools providers to create  extra school places in Brent, parents may be interested in this report from today's Evening Standard:

Report by Anna Davis

Growing numbers of London parents want local authorities to step in if standards drop in free schools, new research reveals.
There is confusion among parents with children at free schools about who exactly is responsible for intervening if there are problems, according to a poll carried out by YouGov.

More than half of parents with a child at a free school in London said they believe local authorities have the power to intervene if it is underperforming.

But in fact local authorities have no powers over free schools, which are independently run and accountable to the Department for Education 

Parents were then asked which schools local authorities should have powers over — and 68 per cent said free schools. This is six percentage points higher than when the same survey was carried out last year. Sixty three per cent of parents said councils should have control over academies, which are also independent.

It is the first survey of London parents since the so-called “Trojan Horse” takeover plot in Birmingham schools and was carried out by London Councils, which represents all local authorities in the capital.

Peter John, London Councils’ Executive member for children and young people, said: “If you are a parent and you are worried about leadership or staff issues at your local school, it’s only natural you’d turn to your local council. Of course head teachers should run schools day-to-day, but it’s clear that on the wider issues, parents want a council role.”

The survey found that 81 per cent of parents want councils to be able to ask free schools and academies to expand to fit more pupils in. This has increased from 76 per cent last year. Councils are responsible for providing a school place for every child, but cannot open schools themselves or direct academies to expand.

London Councils predicts that 133,000 new primary and secondary school places are needed by 2018 to cope with growing demand.

Mr John said: “Parents increasingly support a council role in influencing schools to expand, if there is clear local need. This isn’t surprising given the shortage in London.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have consistently demonstrated that we are tough on underperformance in all types of school. When we have concerns about academies or free schools, we act quickly. The introduction of Regional schools Commissioners and Head Teacher Boards will further ensure swift action in the small number of cases where academies struggle

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