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Failing schools proposal slammed

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Education professionals have reacted with scepticism to government proposals to force councils to intervene in failing schools.

The measure is a key element of the Education & Skills Bill, outlined in last week’s draft Queen’s Speech. It said ministers will seek new powers to either seize control of schools or force councils to act on failing ones, where less than 30% of pupils get less than five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including English and maths.

But Caroline Abrahams, the Local Government Association’s programme director for children and young people, said directors of children’s services already had and used statutory powers to intervene in schools.

She said it would be wrong to categorise all 638 schools currently not meeting the 30% threshold as ‘failing’. “Some local authorities would question whether they are failing schools some have very high value-added scores,” Ms Abrahams said.

Martin Rogers, Children’s Services Network policy consultant, said councils closely monitored school performance and would not ignore problems.

“Legislation doesn’t improve examination results, but it can improve councils’ ability to take various measures,” he said. Steps could include replacing a school’s governing body with an interim executive board, or suspending its delegated budget.

The bill also plans to strengthen children’s trusts, council-led partnerships with other public sector bodies.

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