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Labour proposes schools role for councils

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Labour has proposed giving councils a “strong” education role in a consultation on devolution of power over schools.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg is consulting the public on how a ‘middle tier’ could be structured between schools and Whitehall, which would deal with issues such as admissions, performance improvement and commissioning school provision.

But he said: “Labour has no desire to turn back the clock and return powers from schools to local authorities.

“Nor do we want to see a reduction in the autonomies [the Labour government] gave schools through academies, trust schools and federations.”

Mr Twigg said the Coalition had overseen “a huge programme of centralisation in our school system”, with about half of secondary schools likely to be accountable only to the Department for Education by the end of this parliament.

He said Labour envisaged the middle tier that would have “a strong role for local government, though not going back to the idea of schools being run by town halls”.

The middle tier would give parents a way to influence decisions about the shape of local school systems, provide local scrutiny on admissions to ensure fair access and spot and act upon failing schools.

It would also be used to end what Mr Twigg said was an anomaly in commissioning of school places.

“Local authorities have responsibility for planning local school places, but do not have financial powers to make this happen,” he noted.

The consultation is open until 10 July and can be viewed by clicking here.

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