Farewell to local authorities

The BBC is now reporting that the government wants every school to become an academy. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35814215  This has been an open secret for some time. The only real surprise is that they didn’t amend the recent legislation on its passage through parliament to remove the word ‘costing’ and replace it will ‘all schools not currently an academy’.

The interesting question is whether there is enough unity in the Conservative Party at Westminster to agree to ditch their chums in local government and fully nationalise the school system. Local government won’t enjoy being left with schools places, annual admissions and transport plus, presumably, special needs.

As I have pointed out in previous posts it is difficult to see how a fully academy structure built around MATs can save the government money to spend on the front-line. It is also an open question whether there is enough leadership capacity to staff such a system. I predicted this outcome way back in a post in February 2013 https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2013/02/ when I wrote that:

a National School Service is quietly emerging, with Whitehall connecting directly to schools. Localism it may be, but not democratically elected localism. A national funding formula, administered by schools where the Secretary of State determines who will be able to be a governor, and whether or not new schools are needed, and who will operate them, seems more like a NHS model than a local school system.”

Now it seems it is to finally emerge. Will the Chancellor say something in the budget tomorrow or will the announcement be left to the Secretary of State for Education?

I am old enough to mourn the passing of the local government involvement in education policy. After all, my second ever academic article was about local authority variations in funding on education.

Politically, the issue is should education remain a local service accountable to locally elected councillors or, like health, a national service run from Whitehall – or more likely Coventry – with the aim of creating uniform outcomes across the country? You decide. I certainly think primary schools and pre-schools are a local function as most children go to a school close to where they live and if councils must still provide the places then they should also manage the way schools operate.

With a national school system can come saving on issues like recruitment. May be the National Teaching Service will arise to become more than a press release and blossom into reality.

However, after the Sunday trading defeat and with, post June, disgruntled Tory MPs of one or other view on Europe it will be interesting to see whether the government can command a majority in parliament for the nationalisation move.

What it will mean is that the old phrases of a ‘partnership’ or a ‘national service locally administered’ will finally be confined to the history books or websites and future commentators will have to see whether the Education Secretary has learnt anything from the actions of successive politicians that have run the Health Service.

8 thoughts on “Farewell to local authorities

    • Dick,

      Good to hear from you. Indeed, they could well be a casualty of the process not to mention the relationship between the churches and other faith groups and the State. I never thought it wise for the CoE to put schools into MATs not entirely of CoE schools and I think it would be disastrous to do so now.


  1. I am one of your recent subscribers. I have now retired but as the daughter of a semi literate docker and a cleaning lady, who managed to train to be a teacher I am still concerned about what is happening to what I choose quaintly to call our Education Service.

    Thank you for your dissemination emails which although they cannot always be reassuring at least give a viewpoint often lacking in political discussion and precious few news outlets.

    Cathi Rondel

    ======================================== Message Received: Mar 15 2016, 04:58 PM

  2. It hasn’t worked for the railways nor for the NHS. The latter especially is suffering with recruitment and morale and seemingly being starved of funds. Yet the Tories push on with their ideological fantasy. Now it’s schools. These people are a threat to our country’s future. Let’s just hope the public realise this before it’s too late for polite dialogue.

    • It is also worth recalling that it was Labour that originally invented academies although the Tory Grant Maintained Schools of the 1990s were the first direct rule of schools by Whitehall and Westminster (apart from City Technology Colleges) since the 1944 Act. Labour also invented the idea of Regional Commissioners, so neither of two big parties currently involved in internal strife has favoured local democracy. This despite the fact that primary schools are a core local service. An astute Chancellor would focus on secondary schools and leave the door open on primary, especially with the role of the Church of England in primary schooling being so prominent.

      However, the key issue is after June could the tory government get legislation through parliament to make all primary schools academies? An alliance of Tory Mps supporting their local councils right to be involved in primary schools backed by Scottish and Irish MPs and Labour could produce the same sort of defeat as on the Sunday trading legislation.

      This is only a done deal if Tory MPs all agree to follow the party line.

      • Fingers crossed.

        You’d think the very vocal opposition to and underwhelming performance of this type of reform here and overseas – in Chile, Sweden and US states, for example – would have tempered their plans. That they are pressing ahead suggests a worrying detachment from reality.

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