LGA calls for powers to support failing academies

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to remove the barriers currently refraining councils from helping underperforming schools, including taking on the running of failing academies.

The LGA also advised that councils should be able to sponsor ‘orphan schools' who cannot find a sponsor because they are considered to be unviable, arguing it could be an important protection for struggling small rural schools.

The news comes after the group has previously raised concerns about the lack of academy sponsors and the ability of Regional Schools Commissioners to allow councils and community schools to help failing academies.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "With 91 per cent of council schools now rated good or outstanding, councils and the schools that they maintain have proven they have the track record, experience and expertise to help lift schools out of academic failure. 

"The government must commit to removing the unnecessary red tape and give high performing maintained schools the option of becoming academy sponsors. 

"Councils want to be regarded as improvement partners, not obstructionists to school improvement. Hundreds of schools across the country continue to be turned around thanks to the intervention of councils and their ability to support strong leadership, outstanding classroom teaching and appoint effective support for staff and governors.

"This is further upheld by the fact that 70 per cent of academies were previously good or outstanding council maintained schools, refuting the claim that academy performance is poor because they have taken on underperforming maintained schools.

"With a shortage of academy sponsors and struggling schools currently in the dark about their future the simplest remedy is to give councils the power to turn these schools around where this is the best option locally.

"Councils are best placed to oversee school effectiveness and take immediate action where required. With Regional Schools Commissioners strictly limited to overseeing academic standards, the early warning signs of failing such as safeguarding concerns or financial problems risk being overlooked. It is not acceptable that we have to wait for poor exam results, whistle-blowing about financial impropriety or an Ofsted inspection to trigger intervention. With oversight by councils and strong links built with RSCs, mums and dads would be reassured that a council's regular contact with their school will ensure nothing falls through the cracks."