by new Ofsted Chief Inspector and ex academy head Sir Michael Wilshaw is worth reading. It provides an interesting insight into the new Ofsted framework and also some revealing comments about current school reforms and the idea that autonomy will automatically lead to improvement. Reflecting on education in the 1970s and 80s he notes that:
"devolved power, unconstrained by government direction, does not necessarily raise standards. We need to remember this in the context of today’s agenda of devolving power to schools and heads. A government cannot monitor or administer 30,000 schools from the centre, but it does have a duty to put into place local checks and balances to satisfy itself that an increasingly autonomous system is held regularly to account. I’m sure policy makers are working on this as I speak. The idea of district superintendents or school commissioners responsible directly to the Secretary of State has already been floated and it is something that we should consider further."
Gradually the penny is dropping that total autonomy, without a middle tier between schools and government, won't work.
At a recent seminar organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education
, about academies and free schools, I floated the idea that eventually government will need to re-create a middle tier to hold schools to account and support them. I was surprised to find that both the free school founder on the panel with me, and the representative of an academy chain in the audience, agreed on this issue.
The Labour Party should pick up this issue quickly and develop a credible system of local governance of schools that allows all schools freedom in some areas, restricted freedoms in other ( like admissions) but makes them accountable to local people ( Sir Michael seems to forget this important point) as well as to central government . The Coalition will end up in deep water once it becomes clear that the DFE can't effectively manage thousands of schools from the centre and the standard of education many children receive may suffer as a result .