With 80% of council-run schools considered ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, the government has proposed a plan for them to begin helping weaker Academies get to the same level.
After a recent announcement of school achievement figures, that included stats from 100 councils with 5 or more secondary schools and the 20 largest academy chains, it has become obvious that council-run school’s predicted pupil performance at primary level is better than Academy schools, with more pupil exceeding expectations in their exams. This has caused council-run schools to earn a much higher value added score. The actual figures told of a worrying trend, with only 3 of the 20 biggest academy chains exceeding expectations, which compares disappointingly with the 44 out of the 100 councils who are exceeding expectations in the same way.
It is obvious from the statistics that the academies could use the support, but is this plan the best option?
Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board explained how ‘for parents, who are far more concerned with the quality of their child's education in the classroom than the legal status of the school, it is the council that they still frequently and naturally turn to for advice and support. However, councils' current powers to intervene are strictly limited.’ His view that ‘councils are education improvement partners and not a barrier to change’ was backed up by both the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers who released a statements urging the government to accept the proposal.
On the other hand the director of the SSAT, an independent educational membership organisation with a focus on training, has found problems with the plan: ‘A school wanting to sponsor an academy would have to set up a trust first - a company limited by guarantee - and that trust would be the sponsor. An academy wanting to do so would already have set up a trust in order to become an academy.’ He continued to explain that academy sponsors take the lower performing are likely to have worse attainment as they were originally weaker schools, unlike the council-run schools which would have a wider range in terms of achievement.
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