County leaders warn of ending education grants danger

The County Councils Network (CCN) has warned that the government’s plans to cut the Education Services Grant (ESG) is the equivalent to 'academisation by the back door’.

The grant, used for school improvement services, is to be removed completely for local authorities by August 2017.

However, CNN research has discovered that 68 per cent of academies countrywide currently purchase their school improvement services from their county council or county unitary.

The government’s Education for All Bill has been dropped, and with it some of the concerns of academisation. Nonetheless, the CNN warns that schools are still vulnerable to backdoor academisation.

Education leaders of England’s largest authorities have written to Education Secretary Justine Greening to request support for a review of this decision ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

Cllr Paul Carter, CCN chairman, said: “With the majority of academies across the whole country buying school improvement services from county authorities, it is clear they value local authorities’ expertise and knowledge as a key component for delivering a better education for all.

“Yet, the complete reduction of the ESG will leave councils with a virtually non-existent budget in which to improve standards. The long term consequences of this are far more damaging than the short-term and modest savings for the Treasury’s budget.

“The government re-thinking the Education for All Bill is a positive step, but the withdrawal of ESG will have a massively detrimental impact on local primary schools and leave councils unable to support academy schools. Was this really the intention behind the decision? You could argue this is forced academisation by the back door.”