It seems that the new Ofsted Chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is waking up to the fact that the vast army of academy schools that has suddenly sprung up is largely unaccountable. In his own words he has said that by the time that Ofsted has uncovered that a school is failing, it is too late. Spurred on by an article published by the IPPR
, he is now advocating Local School Commissioners.
These would be heads or maybe ex-heads, locally based with a sound knowledge of local schools, with Sir Michael recommending that they are directly employed by the Department for Education (despite the IPPR recommending that they are locally accountable to city mayors, etc).
Baffling though this may seem, Sir Michael does not see the contradiction in the following utterance he made:
"These people would be non-political, in other words they would not be like LEAs responsible to a council... they would be people who would report directly to the secretary of state"
It’s rather reminiscent of “Animal Farm”, isn’t it? Reporting to the Secretary of state is described as non-political, but reporting to a local council is political. So that should be read, I suppose, as: local politics=bad, centralized politics=good.
Despite the rhetoric of localism, there is very little to do with true localism in what the coalition has created so far in terms of school “reform”, whether it is structure or curriculum, and this latest idea about school commissioners very much follows the current government direction of travel.
In cherry-picking items from the IPPR article and exercising the usual level of tunnel vision when it comes to international comparison, both Gove and Wilshaw seem to have completely ignored international examples of local school systems, accountable to local people, which are stunningly successful in terms of school improvement. Finland always comes to mind when considering these, but Alberta, Canada, through its successful use of local school superintendents over decades has produced a truly local schools system that is highly achieving. Even Michael Gove points out its success, though cleverly never, of course, alludes to its highly locally accountable facet. Plus ca change…….as the saying goes