Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, sees the reenforcement of a democratically accountable ‘middle tier’ in education provision 30 years from now.
In 30 years’ time, policy makers would have learnt the lessons of the very unwelcome educational experiments of the coalition government of 2010-15. There will be a political consensus that vital ‘middle-tier’ tasks cannot be micro-managed by the DfE or by unelected academy chains or sponsors or stand-alone academies.
Councils, in 2043, will act as the champion of local children and families, ensuring equity of access and provision for all children. The local council will also be able to offer its schools:
- expert procurement advice and practices;
- economies of scale in service provision;
- discounts and preferential arrangements with suppliers of goods & services;
- tried and tested advice, including good practice in areas like school improvement;
- continuous professional development for teachers reflecting specific local needs and circumstances
- effective and efficient multi-agency links;
- a vital source of meaningful data;
- a central collaborative hub.
To ensure that they receive the support they need to achieve their very best, schools will now have been returned to local democratic control. The confusion that was caused by the free for all approach to education provision in 2013 will have ended and local authorities will now quite rightly be responsible for:
- planning pupil places – managing surpluses and needs
- encouraging school collaboration
- providing support on SEN and other important services
- challenging and supporting schools
- overseeing fair admissions policies
- checking schools self-evaluation as the method of school accountability
- estimating needs for teacher and staff recruitment.
There will always, of course, be a need for continued debate and scrutiny to ensure local government is equipped to provide high quality places and raise standards. Our education system is a public good and a public service which must be held to account by tax payers.
I strongly believe, however, that both now, and in the future, the role of a local democratically accountable “middle tier” is vital and to undermine the powers of local authorities will be viewed as a costly and damaging mistake.