A disgraceful example of a Labour council putting ideological prejudice before the needs of children is offered by Coventry City Council. Exaranews reports that £3 million has been made available for two new primary schools from property developers who are building more than 1,400 homes on two former industrial sites. Yet the council is not taking up the offer – on the grounds that they wouldn't be running the schools themselves.
Under the 2011 Education Act, where a local authority wants to establish new schools, the first choice should go to establishing free schools or academies. That is the route to innovation and diversity – where competition can drive up standards.
The Act says:
“6A Requirement to seek proposals for establishment of new Academies(1)If a local authority in England think a new school needs to be established in their area, they must seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy.
(2)The local authority must specify a date by which any proposals sought under subsection (1) must be submitted to them.
(3)After the specified date, the local authority must notify the Secretary of State—
(a)of the steps they have taken to seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy, and
(b)of any proposals submitted to them as a result before the specified date, or of the fact that no such proposals have been submitted to them before that date.
(4)A notification under subsection (3) must—
(a)identify a possible site for the Academy, and
(b)specify such matters as may be prescribed.”
If no credible offer comes forward, then fair enough. But, of course, there are charitable trusts with a proven record of success who would certainly have been keen to offer top quality education to Coventry children.
The performance of Coventry Council primary schools is below the national average. 71% achieve Level 4 or above in English and Maths against 74% nationally. Most of the primary schools in Coventry gaining over 80% are church schools indicating the less the council is involved the better.
The council should be aware of how academies can frequently achieve dramatically better results than local authorities have done hitherto.
In 2005 when they were running Woodway Park School only 25% of pupils obtained five or more good GCSEs including English and Maths. The school is now Grace Academy and celebrating that 50% of children now reach this standard.
Then there is the Sidney Stringer Academy. When it was Sidney Stringer School in 2009, and the Council was responsible for it, only 38% of pupils had five good GCSEs including English and maths. It is now 66%.
Yet the council's position is that if they can't run new schools, then nobody will.
Cllr David Kershaw, Cabinet Member for Education at Coventry City Council, said:
“We have no proposals to build new schools in Coventry because they would not be part of the local authority.
“In an ideal world, we would like to have new schools to meet the needs of the high numbers of children that we have in the city. But we do not have that option.”
What despicable bigotry.