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Directors of Children’s Services demand LAs be allowed to take over failing academies

Pippa Allen-Kinross
July 5, 2018

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has released a report asking the government to let local authorities take over failing academies.

The group, who represent the local authority leaders responsible for schools in their areas, are concerned that lack of clarity about the council’s role in schools versus that of academy trusts means the system is “increasingly incoherent”.

The lack of a holistic accountability system – in which young people’s education and social needs are considered together – means too many vulnerable young people are “squeezed out of the mainstream system or falling out of sight all together.”

Academies failed by their sponsors are also increasingly passed between different trusts – as in the case of the Wakefield City Academies Trust collapse earlier this year.

Schools Week previously revealed that schools are increasingly “double-bouncing” – with over 33 spending more than a year in limbo between the sponsors.

ADCS said the length of the waits while new sponsors were found means ““children’s outcomes are put at risk” during this time.

To change the situation, ADCS is demanding a common accountability framework to cover all schools, and an “open and honest discussion” about returning academies to the local authority if a trust fails or voluntarily hands back its school.

Other recommendations include reviewing admissions guidance, a protocol for the regional schools commissioner role ,  a “comprehensive” teacher recruitment and retention plan, and further research into the impact of curriculum reforms.

 

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  • Mark Watson says:

    Not really much of a surprise that DCSs support an idea that would bring more income and staff into their departments. Hardly unexpected. That being said, I think there is a good argument for LAs to be considered when an academy is in trouble and a suitable replacement academy trust is not forthcoming. However, I think that the LA should be considered in the same way as a potential academy trust sponsor - i.e. there should be an objective evaluation of whether the LA is a good fit and is likely to improve the school. Some LAs are undeniably good and some are equally undeniably not. If you were to take the recent EPI report as accurate, if there were problems with a primary academy in Brent, or a secondary academy in Kensington & Chelsea, then the LA would likely be a good option. A primary academy in Nottingham or a secondary academy in Bedford would probably want to avoid their LA though. Given the framework in which academies operate, it's also nowhere near as simple as just transferring the school back to the LA. Especially in a scenario where a multi-academy trust is involved you're looking at a situation that is analogous (on a smaller scale of course) to Brexit or Scottish Devolution. You've got issues like finances and employees, both of which might not be easily delineated into one specific school. A simpler solution is that once an LA has been adjudged as being able to help, it could be given a services contract to go in and support the school, which would retain its academy status. This happens now as between academy trusts, so I don't see why it couldn't also include LAs. If the genuine aim is to support outcomes for children, rather than try and bring schools back into the LA fold for political purposes, then DCSs should welcome this option.