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Call for academy intervention protocol

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Council chiefs have called on education secretary Michael Gove to agree a set of conditions to trigger intervention in failing academies.

In a document due to be published this week, Solace says the government must work with councils, schools and academy sponsors to come up with a “national protocol for monitoring and intervening in underperforming autonomous schools”.

It calls for the protocol as part of a package of measures designed to avoid damaging rows between local authorities and government.

The report author, Solihull MBC chief executive Mark Rogers, left, said a set of ‘trigger points’ to set an intervention in motion and define what it entailed would help avoid any more “car crashes”. He cited the row that broke out over the forced conversion of a primary school in Haringey to academy status.

Along with parental petitions or complaints, potential triggers could include higher than expected patterns of pupil exclusions, schools not accepting or providing poorly for children with special education needs, or a withdrawal frompartnership working, the report suggests.

Earlier this year a row broke out between Mr Gove, left, and Haringey LBC over the conversion of a number of the borough’s primary schools to academy status.

Parents and councillors resisted Mr Gove’s order that Downhill School become an academy or face having its governing board replaced. The education secretary said Haringey was displaying “the bigoted, backward, bankrupt ideology of a left-wing establishment that perpetuates division and denies opportunity”.

Mr Rogers said that if Mr Gove could not forge a good working relationship with the sector, he would struggle to realise ambitions such as increasing the number of primaries that convert to academy status.

“What we are saying is that he doesn’t need to pick fights,” Mr Rogers said.

“He’s got to find a way of getting primary schools to become academies. We are going to be a lot more likely to encourage them if we don’t feel like we are having academies foisted on us by some kind of ‘forced academy unit’,” he added.

Mr Rogers said the paper was a ‘call to action’ for council chief executives to take responsibility for defining the future role of local government in primary and secondary education.

The paper sets out to debunk the myth that councils currently “control” grant-maintained schools and seeks to outline a new role for councils as the “leaders, convenors, facilitators and enablers of local relationships between schools, parents, academy sponsors and others”.

Part of this would involve supporting parents that seek to set up a free school where they feel it is needed. Mr Rogers said this reflected the changing nature of education provision and was consistent with the role of councils being to “empower parents and young people” to challenge the quality of education provision.

To help parents, Mr Rogers said the government should throw its weight behind councils creating a “high-level dashboard” of core benchmarking performance information on the performance of all types of schools.

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