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Gove: councils could sponsor failing academies

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Councils could take over the running of failing academy schools, education secretary Michael Gove has said.

Mr Gove was asked about the role of councils in the case of underperforming academies during a Commons education select committee hearing earlier this week. “Yes, schools could be returned to local authority control,” he said. “If a local authority would like to set up a trust and move into academy sponsorship, I’d be interested to hear the proposition.”

Asked by the Labour MP Alex Cunningham what the role of a local authority was in assessing failure in an academy or a free school, Mr Gove said councils could make a judgement about this but should not be able to pursue a “vendetta” against the schools.

Also at the hearing, the Labour MP Ian Mearns asked Mr Gove whether a failing school had to become an academy. Mr Gove said this was not the only option, and schools could choose to improve themselves. “If a school demonstrates that it has plans in place and those plans are robust, then we will say that’s absolutely great,” he said.

Graeme McDonald, director of policy at the council chief executives’ body Solace, said he thought councils would be broadly supportive of the idea of taking over failing academies, because their role was to safeguard children’s education.

He said, however, that the plan would involve significant practical difficulties. “If a school was independent of the local authority but sponsored by it, I’m not sure how that would work in practice and in terms of governance,” he said.  

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