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Give councils greater school intervention powers

The Local Government Association (LGA) says measures will give regional school commissioners new powers to intervene in “coasting schools” should also extend to councils. 

The LGA says limited powers and overly bureaucratic processes prevent councils from intervening quickly in failing state schools – currently, they can only issue a warning notice and require government permission to take any further action.

In addition, councils cannot compel academies or free schools to take part in improvement work when problems arise as they report directly to government. Around 20% of academies have received a “requires improvement” rating by Ofsted since being converted. 

The new measures will flesh out details of the Conservatives’ election manifesto pledge for any school that receives a requires improvement rating to be “taken over by the best head teachers” unless it can show it has a plan to improve rapidly. 

But the LGA says reform must include an end to the situation where councils are held responsible for the decisions of head teachers and school managers, but cannot hold them to account when failings occur or intervene early to tackle them.

David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: "We need to ensure robust intervention powers for all of those held accountable for school performance.  Changed structures alone won't drive improvement without good head teachers, effective teaching, and teamwork by governors and support staff.

Alison O’Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, is also concerned about councils’ ability to intervene in struggling schools. “The association is concerned about the consequences, intended or otherwise, of the growing fragmentation in our education system.  Up and down the country parents tell us they are no longer sure about who to speak to locally when concerns arise and we no longer have the power to intervene when things go wrong.”