TODAY’S report that Oxfordshire County Council is intervening over pupil absences at two city academies raises worrying questions about moves to give schools greater independence.
The mantra for giving schools academy status – freeing leaders from council control – was that heads could run their schools without outside interference and it would in fact improve standards.
A noble idea perhaps and one that’s becoming more common in the public sector, particularly in the NHS where GPs control budgets and hospital managers with foundation status have much greater say over their priorities.
Yet taxpayers now face paying twice to sort out problems at St Gregory the Great Catholic School and Oxford Academy which – through the school and the council – are already saddled with creaking finances.
It’s to be welcomed that the council still clearly cares about the welfare of all pupils because, when it comes down to it, the schools can take or leave any help or advice they offer about pupils not turning up for class.
Yet as academies are directly funded by central government and independent of local authority control, surely it’s Mr Gove’s Department for Education that should be ensuring academies are doing their job properly and the DfE which should be footing any bill.
Just leaving heads to it could produce fantastic results – but it is also a recipe for complacency, paralysis of decision-making and political infighting.
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