Government plans to turn every school in England into an academy by 2022, independent of local authority control, have met with increasing criticism from the Local Government Association (LGA). More recently, there have been suggestions that the government is about to backtrack by allowing councils to run academies. How should councils prepare for the uncertainty ahead?
A new report from the LGA says council-run schools perform better than academies. The percentage of schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is 86% at council schools and 82% at academies. What’s more, 98% of ‘inadequate’ council-run schools are said to have improved by the following Ofsted inspection, compared to 88% of those converted to academies.
However, earlier research by the Department for Education showed that academies like Ark Schools and the Harris Federation did well at improving performance, but so did Hackney, Barnet and Haringey councils. On the other hand, the University of Chester Academies Trust struggled, but so did local authorities Newcastle and Barnsley. In other words, the relationship between control and quality is unclear.
Debates on the future of England's schools have concentrated on who is better positioned to find solutions. On one side, commentators believe an academy run system could “destroy a school infrastructure and put nothing in its place.” On the other hand, academy supporters say local authorities can’t assess the problem objectively. The Association of National Specialist Colleges even suggests there is a “conflict of interest” in local authority funding.
Reconciling these two positions could be key, but one thing stands in the way: cost. Labour has said the cost of academisation will rise to £700 million, and there have been claims that academy chief executives will be paid in excess of £150,000. Meanwhile, council spending is at a 70-year low, and council tax is predicted to account for half of local authority income by 2020.
Against this backdrop, one thing remains certain: local authorities must remain alert to the potential costs and be ready to maximise cash flow in order to prepare for either outcome. For more information about how ethical Enforcement Agents like Dukes Bailiffs can help recover unpaid council tax debt, get in touch with our Contact Centre Manager today.