In June last year the former Education Secretary David Blunkett began a review into how best to deliver the system of dedicated local oversight, support and challenge we need in order to raise standards effectively in all schools.
In his newly published report he draws heavily on the lessons of the London Challenge programme, credited with the transformation of the capital’s secondary schools. Within a decade London went from one of the worst performing regions to the highest performing region in secondary performance.
He has recommended two core proposals; new ‘directors of school standards’ in every area, who are then given the powers to commission new schools.
With the powers to intervene in underperforming, ‘fragile’ and ‘mediocre’ schools, he or she would have the powers to intervene in all state schools – community schools (run by local authorities), academies and free schools and voluntary aided (faith) schools.
Decisions regarding new schools and new school places would be devolved to the independent director of school standards. Directors of school standards would run competitions open to all providers, judging applications on the basis of merit and cost-effectiveness, ensuring a value-neutral approach that will see the best provider for that area delivering schooling – not just those that suit the political agenda of the Secretary of State.
He also recommends allowing local authorities to once again bid to open new community schools, scrapping the current Education Secretary’s policy which only allows new academies or free schools. This would be a major decentralisation, devolving power away from Whitehall and Westminster down to local areas.
The director of school standards would be appointed by local authorities from a list of high quality candidates approved by the Secretary of State for Education and would work at the local level. Local authorities would be encouraged to appoint joint directors of school standards to work across a wider area, where this makes sense geographically and for raising standards – this matches the area-wide approach taken in London.
Standards in all schools – community schools, academies and free schools, voluntary aided schools – would be scrutinised at local level using the local knowledge and data, including from parents, that allows problems to be spotted early; and existing conflicts of interest between commissioning and providing school places would end.
If any parents, students or teachers have any views on these proposals please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org