Schools in meltdown: Councillors voice fears over future of authority

Schools in meltdown: Councillors voice fears over future of authority

Melinda Tilley

Liz Brighouse

Zoe Patrick

First published in Countywide

Cabinet member for education on Oxfordshire County Council Melinda Tilley is concerned about the authority’s growing loss of control as more schools become academies.

She said: “I don’t know what our role will be, and nobody seems to know at the moment.

“We will still have a statutory responsibility for the children, but what worries us is if we will be able to step in before things go belly up.”

Education secretary Michael Gove has indicated he expects all schools to eventually go down the academy route.

Mrs Tilley estimated it was likely to be a “couple of years” before academies outnumbered local authority schools.

She said: “We will reach a point where it’s not viable to provide the services we currently do and we are going to have to think about how we are going to facilitate these services and help schools do it for themselves, and I don’t know when that tipping point will come.”

Mrs Tilley said she stood by the authority’s motion last year to support all schools to become academies.

She said: “Obviously we wanted to support the Government but it was not and still is not clear on what our future role will be, if any.”

Zoe Patrick, leader of the opposition on the county council, said she shared Mrs Tilley’s concerns. She said: “The problem is where we have areas where you have Church of England schools, then you’ve got the free school agenda coming in so there is a whole mixture of various schools and it’s trying to get them together.”

She said in her own Wantage and Grove constituency there was a mix of schools keen to become academies and those strongly opposed.

She said: “My concern is where you have a school, particularly a primary, on its own, without any support, just left to carry on without academy status – how is that going to be supported? It leaves a lot of uncertainty.

“I think they have got to take each school on its own merits and see how they are managing.”

Liz Brighouse, leader of the Labour group on the county council, said she believed the Conservatives locally had tried “very hard” to make sense of the changes to the educational landscape brought in by their party nationally.

She said: “The local authority saying it wants to support schools to become academies was done on the basis that it was better planned than unplanned.

“It’s going to cause problems irrespective of what happens at local authority level because of decisions by the coalition government. To be truthful, the local authority has been left on a hiding to nothing.”

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