Academies: Who will have the strongest voice?

Parent taking child to school Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Parents' involvement with schools is set to change

A number of changes to the way England's schools are going to be run have been announced this week - to school inspections, parent governors and teacher training.

On the face of it, this bundle of changes gives schools and head teachers greater independence.

It's head teachers who will get to decide if a trainee has the classroom skills that will justify signing them off as a fully fledged teacher.

There is a push to give teachers more freedom in the classroom too.

As long as they get results, there will be less pressure to conform to a teaching style preferred by the inspectors.

But who has the strongest voice in this new system?

Across England thousands of elected parent governors give their time to help their children's school.

That role will disappear as academies will no longer have to keep places for parent governors chosen by their peers.

Instead there will be a focus on choosing governors for academy trusts according to their skills, who might be parents or might not.

This could help give local employers a bigger role, but risks pushing to the sidelines a local mum or dad who wants to be very hands-on.

White Paper proposals:

  • All schools in England to move to academy status.
  • New funding system designed to benefit disadvantaged areas.
  • Heads who take over struggling schools given a two-and-a-half-year reprieve from Ofsted inspections, to enable them to turn things around.
  • An end to the legal obligation for academies to have parents as governors in all schools.
  • A shake-up of governance, with a greater obligation to consult with parents.
  • Accreditation system for teacher training to focus on a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom, and be approved by head teachers.

Accountability to parents will rely in future on a duty to consult them, and on parent surveys.

Parents will be able to kick up a stink if they're really unhappy with the academy trust, but to get a school transferred to the control of another one will be hard.

It's holding these academy trusts to account for results, and for their use of public money, that will be one of the real tests of this highly autonomous system.

Parents will need to know whose ear to bend and where to complain locally if they are concerned.

You might have thought in all of this that councils are disappearing out of education. Think again.

They keep the hard job of finding a school place for every child in their area.

And more surprisingly, the door is still open for them to set up social enterprises to run some schools.

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