December 2011

The know zone

  • Take note
    Governance, finance, buildings, liabilities, personnel… increased autonomy lays bare a raft of rights and responsibilities that academies can’t ignore, says Richard Bird. More
  • Coining new terms
    Sam Ellis introduces a series of articles designed to help leaders adapt to a world in which curriculum planning is determined by what you can afford, not what you need. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from Horace, Napoleon Hill, Maya Angelou, Frank A Clark. More
  • Permanent state of bliss?
    Ross Morrison McGill was made voluntarily redundant from his role as assistant head of an academy in London in August. He hopes to run his own school one day and is currently blogging and fundraising for Bliss, a charity that helps families with prematurely-born children, after his son Freddie was born two months early. More
  • Green is good
    Through its Green Schools Revolution (GSR) community education programme, The Co-operative is encouraging students to work towards a more sustainable future. A range of resources, activities and trips have been devised to engage everyone from young, first-time environmentalists to committed ‘greenagers’. More
  • Adding value
    Data is critical to informing decisions on whole school improvement but many schools and academies are failing to make good use of the powerful tools available in their management information systems (MIS). More
  • LA story: The final cut?
    Do local authorities still have a role to play in education? If so, in what areas? Should they be involved in monitoring and raising standards, take on a more limited role, or have no involvement at all with education? Leaders share their views… More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Terminal exams set to stay in England & Pensions come home to roost More
  • Taking care of business
    While pensions and industrial action were at the forefront of everyone’s mind during the last Council meeting on 13-14 October, there was plenty of other business to attend to. Here is a snapshot of the committee discussions More
  • Trading places
    If the school system becomes polarised between confident high-achieving institutions and ones struggling to overcome major challenges, collaboration will become not just important but essential, says Brian Lightman. Otherwise, the dream of a world-class education system has no hope of becoming a reality. More
  • Sense & sensibility?
    Eric Hester reports a startling DfE development: some leadership teams are being encouraged to deploy discernment, logic and good old-fashioned gumption. More
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Do local authorities still have a role to play in education? If so, in what areas? Should they be involved in monitoring and raising standards, take on a more limited role, or have no involvement at all with education? Leaders share their views…

LA story: The final cut?

Rise of the super-LA?

As more schools become independent it appears inevitable that we will see the progressive dismantling of LA education departments. Responsibility for raising standards has always rested within the schools themselves. Might some see LAs as a costly middleman they no longer need? Or do they actually offer a specialised service that we have come to take for granted, and will miss? If LAs can offer good advice and service, we might well see the emergence of super-LAs competing successfully across borders in an open market.
Jon Sale,
Head of planning and resources, Shoreham Academy, West Sussex

What happens to ECM?

The Every Child Matters agenda is potentially harder, but not impossible, to implement in a fractured school system. In addition, the role of director of children and young people’s services is more likely to go to someone from a social care background than before if only a proportion of schools come under the local authority.

Since the rise of National Challenge, London Challenge and so on, there are better models and support than many LAs could provide. Local authorities need to work together more effectively, probably sharing services more frequently than now.
Alex Atherton,
Headteacher, Park View School, Tottenham

A hub of knowledge

Among other things, LAs provide a hub of knowledge and resources in a wide variety of fields. It alarms me at the rate with which this hub is being disbanded and with it, the skills and expertise of a great number of professionals. In time, hubs of academies with the skills and expertise to operate achieving economies of scale will begin to evolve but this will not happen overnight. One concern is the loss of the school improvement partner, funded and facilitated by the LA. Without this challenge and support from a ‘critical friend’, will some outstanding schools begin to coast?
Gareth Burton,
Assistant principal, Chipping Campden School, Gloucestershire

Retaining monitoring

The coalition government’s view that schools should be responsible for education is fine but there will remain situations where schools find themselves in difficulties and standards are falling. LAs know their schools well and many – both maintained and academies – are still coming to us as a trusted provider of support which understands both their context and their needs.

They should definitely retain a role in monitoring educational standards in all state schools. It fits well with the current focus on early intervention and the role of the LA as “the advocate for the child”.
Kevin Burrell,
School improvement manager, Buckinghamshire County Council

Keeping a specialist role?

LAs will still have a role to play in those schools and academies that have not yet established effective collaborative networks. However, many schools and academies (including ours) have built successful relationships with other establishments and share services such as payroll, HR, education welfare, CPD and so on. In these cases, there may still be a very limited role for LAs in the provision of specialist administrative and legal tasks such as admissions and independent appeals. Such services, even across a group of schools, could not achieve the economies of scale of a large local authority.
Tracy Jackson,
Assistant principal, business development, Ossett Academy and Sixth Form College, Wakefield

A waste of public money

Before my school converted to an academy I had to report to the LA monthly, something which I found time-consuming and which brought no benefit to the school or the LA that I could see. I always thought quarterly reporting would have been sufficient as we were not a deficit school.

I now have a yearly audit and have set financial policies that are workable and approved by the auditors. There are still strict controls in place but they are more appropriate to the income levels I operate to as a large secondary school, saving time and money.

My personal experience of LA workings was mixed. The staff in the LA were hard working and very supportive but the reporting demanded by the LA was excessive and wasteful of public money.
(Name and address supplied)
Academy finance director, London