What were the findings of the final LGA/DfE 2012 report into the role of LAs in education?

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Findings:

1 Most LAs thought they had a clear vision about how to support the quality of education although some had misgivings about whether this vision was universally shared.

2 Only half were confident about their capacity to implement this vision.

3 LAs have to balance their responsibilities to maintain non-academy schools with new demands from a changing system.

4 LAs are more confident about having discussions with academy sponsors rather than with converter academies (particularly “stand-alone” ones).

5 Pressure to reach a quick solution risks arriving at a “superficial consensus” which avoids difficult questions.

6 The present situation in which LAs responsibilities are changing gives an opportunity to debate LA roles and consider evidence-based policies around school partnerships

7 Good relations between LAs, schools and academies may be threatened when key individuals move on.

8 Schools feel that LAs have the opportunity to demonstrated confident leadership particularly on difficult issues such as fair access.

9 Schools are very concerned about possible reductions in LA services.

10 Schools believe the future education system will be founded on the strength of partnerships but heads fear such links could be fragile.

11 LAs were developing three roles: organizing partnerships; commissioning services; championing pupils, parents and communities.

Managing supply of school places:

This is discussed more fully in the interim report summarised in the faq, What problems do Local Authorities face when schools become academies according to 2012 report?.

School improvement:

1 LAs remain accountable for the outcomes for all children and young people in the area.

2 LAs have a statutory duty to promote high standards.

3 LAs need to ensure that school-to-school support is coherent.

4 LAs and heads were both anxious about how the whole system can respond coherently to school failure.

5 LAs may lack enough intelligence in an autonomous school system to notice signs of declining performance.

6 Roles of responsibility are unclear.

7 LAs were frustrated about perceived lack of transparency surrounding DfE choice of sponsors for poorly performing schools.

Supporting vulnerable children:

1 LAs less confident about they will be able to offer good quality support for vulnerable children.

2 Factor contributing to this low confidence include growing numbers of special needs children, high mobility levels and difficulties in finding places for each vulnerable child.

3 LAs keep responsibilities to manage Fair Access Protocols for hard-to-place children.

4 Academy conversion could lead to schools refusing to take their fair share of such children.

5 The threat of enforced academy conversion could result in schools near the borderline refusing admission to children likely to bring down the results.

6 The redistribution of the LA Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) evens out distribution of funding for vulnerable children between academies without regard to the actual level of need.

7 Although many LAs were confident about their ability to commission support for vulnerable children, there was concern about any instability caused by providers (especially of Alternative Provision) to enter and leave the market rapidly.

Looking forward:

1 Proportion of academies is increasing.

2 New Ofsted framework might result in more schools judged to be causing concern.

3 Proposed changes in school funding could have implications for high-needs provision.

Advice for local partners:

1 Develop ways in which relationships can be strengthened.

2 Focus on building a “local education culture” with a strong moral basis.

3 Identify ways of learning from other LAs.

4 Develop high-quality data analysis.

5 Ensure partners, including academies and sponsors, jointly understand the role of LAs in being “a champion of pupil and parents”.

6 Monitor closely whether support for vulnerable children is sufficient.

7 Identify ways in which further responsibilities can be delegated to schools within a strong framework combining partnership with “robust quality assurance.”

Advice for national partners:

1 There has been a wide range in LA performance.

2 This impacts on the ability of individual LAs to adapt to the new environment.

3 Sector-led improvement and the Children’s Improvement Board *(CIB) provide a way the sharing of good practice.

4 There is no “obvious point of accountability in the system” if academies should develop problems.

5 The DfE should be clearer about how it assesses the suitability of academy sponsor and how it will monitor sponsors’ performance.

6 The DfE should review process now in place for disputes around Fair Access to make sure it is still fit for purpose.

*The CIB had its funding axed with no warning in April 2013. Its expertise has, therefore, been lost. Read about it here.

Local authority role in education – policy briefing on final report for the Ministerial Advisory Group (July 2012) downloadable here.