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Bring back the LEAs

June 10, 2014 7:58 PM
By Cllr John Marriott - Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Lincolnshire County Council
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

John MarriottAll this about Trojan horses in Birmingham is all Greek to me! What I do know is that this is the price we pay for taking our hands off the steering wheel of state education.

First it was the free hand politicians, both local and national, gave to the educational establishment to introduce comprehensive education some 50 years ago, with consequences especially for employment first highlighted by PM James Callaghan in his famous address to Ruskin College, Oxford, in 1976.

Secondly, when national politicians, like Kenneth Baker, decided to retake directional control, what started out as an attempt to bring back a little common sense into the curriculum, morphed via the Tories' Grant Maintained Schools through Labour's Foundation Schools and Academies into the miss mash of schools we have today, particularly at secondary level.

What has been lacking these past fifty years or so is what was enshrined in the education acts from Forster's in 1870 to Butler's in 1944, namely a confidence in the ability of local government to deliver the goods.

That's what we need to do now. An educational zealot in Westminster and his OFSTED enforcers are the last people we want in charge of our schools. We need to bring back real democratic accountability for schools through local education authorities. After all, if things go wrong with academies and free schools now, it is they who still have to pick up the pieces.

A light touch approach from the local council would allow heads and their staffs the flexibility to tailor their approach to the specific educational needs of their students in the knowledge that they were part of a larger local educational family, with a critical friend to whom they could turn for support and advice in case things did not quite go to plan. After all, we are dealing with human beings here, with all their complexities. We are not trying to build better motor cars.