Leeds Council in urgent talks with city’s schools over Government’s academies plan

Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake.
Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake.
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LEEDS COUNCIL is in “urgent talks” with the city’s schools and town halls across the country about how it can remain involved in education if all state schools are converted into academies.

The Government has said that all schools which have not started to convert to academy status by 2020 will be directed to do so under new powers.

The move will mean councils lose responsibility for their existing schools which will become autonomous with funding direct from Government.

Most are expected to join multi-academy trusts.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake says the Government plans will result “in an extremely costly and unnecessary reorganisation.”

She also warned it would mean moving “school buildings and land currently owned by the people of Leeds into the hands of a smaller number of unelected trusts.”

Her comments follow the IPPR think-tank calling for all strong performing councils to be allowed to run their own academy trusts.

The IPPR suggested councils with a strong track record of raising standards could help provide the capacity to help run some of the 16,000 schools which the Government is intending to convert into academy status.

Coun Blake said: “We are currently in urgent talks with other councils across the country and with local schools to discuss both the implications and potential ramifications of the Government’s academisation proposals.

“The overwhelming response from schools in Leeds has been one where they wish to continue working closely with the council, a view that is fully reciprocated by us.

“In our discussions, some schools have asked us to consider an academy trust, while others have said they would like to strongly oppose the move to force all schools to become academies.”

She added: “If this academisation proposal is given the go-ahead, I do not believe that the plans set out in the White Paper offer greater freedoms for school leaders, indeed far from it. What it will result in is an extremely costly and unnecessary reorganisation, which will at the same time shift power, and school buildings and land currently owned by the people of Leeds into the hands of a smaller number of unelected trusts. These trusts will not be accountable to the parents and communities that they should be there to serve, but instead be focused on operating like national companies in competition with each other.”

In the Government’s White Paper, Education Excellence Everywhere, it says councils would retain responsibility for providing school places.

And it also says that to ensure children continue to benefit from the best talent in local councils “it expects some people will leave local authorities to set up new academy trusts or to join existing ones”.

Responding to Coun Blake’s comments a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The academy system empowers great teachers and leaders, and gives them the autonomy to make the decisions that are right for their community and their pupils. Full academisation will mean that all schools will be part of a dynamic self-improving system in which underperformance can be addressed decisively. “We are giving schools until 2020 to carefully consider the best arrangement for becoming an academy, and until 2022 to convert. Each Regional School Commissioner will play a pivotal role in recruiting new sponsors to take on underperforming schools, and we will be investing in the people and systems necessary.”

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