Laws seeks to reassure local authorities that they have a key role in education

To Support, Challenge and where  necessary Intervene in schools


Education Minister David Laws, in a speech to the LGA, this month, said “Local Government has a massive and crucial role to play in delivering education. It does now. It will in the future.”

He continued “Local authorities have a key strategic oversight role in education. It is local authorities which have the legal responsibility to ensure that there is a school place for every child in their area. This is an important role, particularly in areas with rising pupil numbers. Local authorities not only have to ensure provision, but they are vital in making the school admissions process work. It is local authorities which help deliver fair access for all. There are many other strategic areas where local authorities are and will remain important. Take school transport, for example. It may not be glamorous, but those school buses are of critical importance for many pupils. Local authorities can and must do much more than fulfilling their statutory duties. Critically, they can and must support schools, challenge schools, and – where necessary – intervene in schools.”

But Laws also warned local authorities that if they want to retain their important role in schools then they must act when schools in their areas need to improve. He said “Too often in the past local authorities have failed to act to deal with failure or mediocrity.”

Crucially, Laws accepted that the DFE is not in a position “to intervene in the number of schools which may now need intervention and support.”, which is why local authorities still have an important role. Laws dismissed ideas for some form of alternative ‘middle tier’ in the shape for example of Schools Commissioners, an idea that has been mooted.

He explained that there are many ways, not one, in which local authorities can intervene. He said “They can offer school support directly. They can encourage schools to form self-improvement clusters. They can find suitable sponsors for underachieving schools.”

He concluded by saying that despite some tensions, national and local government share a common goal which is “ to raise ambitions and achieve the potential for each and every child in our country.”


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