Government’s education structure is not fit for purpose, says experts group

FRIDAY 27 JULY 2012
(See also a press release by Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg MP, commenting on the Groups’ statement)

The New Visions for Education Group today publishes a major policy document calling for a restoration of democratic accountability in the education service in England. It attacks the loss of accountability and fragmentation of the education service which it says is the result of the government’s drive towards academies and so called ‘free schools’. The Government’s structure for the public education service is not fit for purpose, the Group
asserts.

The Group’s policy statement reflects also on the growing debate about the so called ‘middle tier’ to sit between central government and schools. However, in endorsing the need for democratically elected local or regional authorities with responsibilities in education, the statement argues that the description ‘middle tier’ is misleading. It rejects the idea of a hierarchy of authority which the term implies. It is, says the Group, a mistake to construe what is required as either a direct agent of central government or a mechanism for the collective management of groups of schools. The Group instead makes the case that there are important discrete functions that cannot, or cannot effectively, be carried out other than by democratically accountable bodies with powers to deliver a strategically planned education service in every area of the country.

The Group’s statement emphasises that it is not seeking to turn the clock back to the days before schools acquired freedoms to manage their own internal budgets. Its statement says:

“Our belief in the need to restore a structure of education authorities is not a contradiction of the values of maximising managerial and professional freedom for individual schools. On the contrary, we know how much those freedoms are valued by teachers and schools leaders, and professional autonomy for schools has been a success. However there is a great deal of difference between giving professional autonomy to schools within a coherent strategic framework and the kind of fragmentation we see in current government policy.”

The statement goes on to reject the government’s promotion of ‘academy chains’ as a means of achieving a coherent structure in the education service.

“By promoting the idea of academy chains, that is loose affiliations of otherwise independently run schools, the government is effectively conceding the need for structural co-ordination. Its idea of academy chains is an attempt to satisfy that need without upsetting the Secretary of State’s doctrinaire commitment to academies. It is, however, quite inappropriate to regard ‘academy chains’ or other ad hoc bodies, as capable of adequately fulfilling the ‘intermediate governance’ role necessary to fill the gap between the proper duties of Central Government and what is best left to individual schools.”

Click here for the full policy document.

For further information about this release and/or requests for interviews, please contact the Chairman of the New Visions for Education Group, Sir Tim Brighouse on 01865766995

See also a press release by Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg MP, commenting on the Groups’ statement