Friday, November 2, 2012 at 09:18:42
As a governor at a school in Central Bedfordshire the last few years have been exciting times….. central government have pushed through a breathtaking raft of changes with the Academies programme a central plank. Whilst I may have reservations about some of the policies implemented, I can make no bones about an elected government choosing to act, however central government policy can be quite a crude tool with practise varying considerably on the ground. Indeed government wants it to vary as implementation needs to match local conditions. And whilst government is keen to remove the middle tier of school management (that is local authorities) in order to give greater flexibility and autonomy to individual schools (and move to being directly funded/managed by central government) the responsibility for failure still lies with this tier.
So, as a local authority, what are the options for being involved in this process? They are:
(1) Active Engagement - admit that the role is changing to one that is supportive, requiring active engagement and the delivery of well managed services. Schools run themselves now, but responsibility rests with the LA so have the leadership ability and capability to know when to step in.
(2) Active Disengagement - admit that the role is changing but rather wash your hands of any responsibility whatsoever, pull all services and meet the minimum statutory requirements, stepping in as you watch schools implode and fail. No educational leadership ability or capability becoming politically asinine.
The latter appears to be the route that Central Bedfordshire has taken - not content with sitting back and watching the effects of central government’s Academies programme, they have also removed their services to minimum requirements. In fact schools are actively encouraged to become Academies (regardless of their circumstances) in order to move them away from LA responsibility. Perhaps the most damaging lack of political ability has been the LAs position on 2-tier and 3-tier education. This is a long running debate within the LA and the solution? Open up to a free market, let schools choose to go 1-tier, 2-tier or stay 3-tier, have multiple transition points and no vision for a single education journey that a child can make. In fact this implosion of structured provision (particularly within Dunstable) will lead to the slow painfull closure of a raft of schools and the individual lives and aspirations of the children in them. The latest “helpful advice” is no better example of this… under the guise of parental choice the LA now has to explain to parents that it’s inability to provision an educational journey makes things… well complicated. In fact so much so that we now have to have a flow chart! This doesn’t make encouraging or pleasant reading.
The lack of political will, educational responsibility and social care of the incumbent Conservative council (and leader James Jamieson and Educational Portfolio Mark Versallion) is disappointing…… the debate is not whether 1/2/3-tier is the correct system, but that the elected members make an informed decision and take responsibility and leadership for the structural implementation of that decision knowing that 37,000 odd children are dependent and reliant upon them.