1. Statutory Context
The local authority’s statutory responsibilities for educational excellence are set out in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. A local authority must exercise its education function with a view to promoting high standards. This duty has to be discharged within the context of increasing autonomy, changing accountability for schools and the expectation that schools themselves should lead improvement.
The Education and Inspections Act 2006 defined the strategic role of the local authority in the school improvement process:
- As champion of the needs of children and young people and their families
- In the planning, commissioning and quality assurance of educational services
- In challenging schools and, where appropriate, to commission support and, if necessary, intervene in the management and governance of schools and
- Where a local authority has concerns about academy performance it must raise them directly with the DfE.
The 2006 Act required local authorities to respond to parental concerns about the quality of local schools and granted new powers to intervene early in maintained schools where performance was poor. Part 4 of the Act set out measures for tackling school underperformance by:
- Enabling early action to tackle school underperformance so that it does not become entrenched and lead to school failure
- Ensuring that effective support and challenge is provided immediately when unacceptable standards are identified so that improvements can be made quickly
- Securing decisive action if a school in special measures fails to make sufficient progress so that the education and life chances of pupils are safeguarded.
The Education and Adoption Act 2016 amends the 2006 Act by:
- Stating that every school judged inadequate by Ofsted will become a sponsored academy.
- Giving new powers to the Secretary of State to intervene in schools considered to be underperforming.
- Expanding the legal definition of the ‘eligible for intervention category’ to enable the Secretary of State to turn such schools into academies or intervene in them in other ways placing new duties on schools.
- Requiring schools in specified cases to work with an identified sponsor towards the making of academy arrangements with a sponsor.
- Removing the requirement for a general consultation to be held where a school is being converted to a sponsored academy.