A ban on top council-run schools sponsoring failing schools amounts to “red tape” and should be dropped, say council bosses.
In England, only schools with academy status are allowed to form trusts to sponsor weaker schools.
And, the Local Government Association said, a shortage of “good quality” sponsors often left failing schools “in the dark about their future”.
Ministers said there was no legal frame for council schools to be sponsors.
The Local Government Association says 91% of council maintained schools are rated good or outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted – so they should be allowed “to play a direct role in raising education standards and improving life chances, including taking on the running of failing academies”.
New analysis of Ofsted ratings for the LGA by education analysts Angel Solutions found a higher percentage of good and outstanding grades among council maintained schools than among academies.
Of 14,890 council maintained schools inspected, 91% are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared with 85% of 5,058 academies, say the researchers.
There are wide variations within the academy category, with sponsored academies, which are forced into academy status after poor Ofsted ratings, predictably faring worse than converter academies, which must be rated good or outstanding before being allowed to convert.
The LGA points out that the majority of academies are converter academies.
Inspection ratings for 4,103 converter academies showed 89% rated good or outstanding but among the 955 sponsored academies inspected the figure was only 65%, according to the analysis.
Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said the figures proved councils had “the track record, experience and expertise to help lift schools out of academic failure”.
“The government must commit to removing the unnecessary red tape and give high performing maintained schools the option of becoming academy sponsors.
“Councils want to be regarded as improvement partners, not obstructionists to school improvement,” said Mr Watts, who is also the leader of Islington Council.
“With a shortage of academy sponsors and struggling schools currently in the dark about their future the simplest remedy is to give councils the power to turn these schools around where this is the best option locally.”
Mr Watts also voiced concerns about the local knowledge and capacity of the eight Regional Schools Commissioners, whose job is to oversee academic standards.
He said that without the help of councils “the early warning signs of failing” risked being overlooked.
“It is not acceptable that we have to wait for poor exam results, whistle-blowing about financial impropriety or an Ofsted inspection to trigger intervention.
“Councils are best placed to oversee school effectiveness and take immediate action where required,” added Mr Watts.
A Department for Education spokesman said there was no legal framework for a council or council-run school to sponsor a school unless they opened a trust – and this would involve converting to academy status.
“We would encourage good or outstanding council-run schools to apply to become a sponsor so they can share their expertise,” said the spokesman.
The spokesman said councils could not run multi-academy trusts “as legally less than 20% of members and trustees are allowed to be ‘local authority influenced’ to ensure the trust remains autonomous from the local authority”.
More than half of academies in England have lacked enough income to cover their annual expenditure, according to figures revealed by ministers.
An answer to a Parliamentary question shows that the proportion of academy trusts with an annual shortfall doubled in two years.
It comes amid growing warnings about school funding shortages.
But Schools Minister Nick Gibb told MPs on Tuesday that school funding had been protected and was at record levels.
The figures have been revealed in response to a question about academy expenditure from the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Storey.
These figures for 2014-15 show that 53% of stand-alone academies were recorded as having “spent more than their income per year”, up from 42% in the previous year.
Among multi-academy trusts, the proportion spending more than their income was 53%, compared with 25% in the previous year.
This did not necessarily mean that the academies were left in deficit – as they could have been using reserves from previous years.
The ministerial answer says that in 2014-15 only 4% of academy trusts had such a “cumulative deficit”.
But the Liberal Democrats say that it shows a rising problem with inadequate funding, for academies as well as local authority schools.
“Academies are already falling short of cash and this a deep concern to staff and parents. It shows that the system that the Conservatives have created has a shaky foundation,” said Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh.
“The government want to pretend that academies and free schools are the answer to the funding problems but this shows that they’re not immune to the impact of the government slashing education budgets,” he said.
School leaders have been increasingly vocal in concerns about funding levels.
Head teachers have been warning about having to cut school hours, governors have threatened to refuse to sign off budgets and grammar school leaders have said they might have to start charging parents.
Last week, heads were angered when it was revealed that £384m earmarked for converting schools into academies last year had been taken back by the Treasury.
On Tuesday, Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, faced questions from the education select committee on school funding.
He rejected suggestions of underfunding for schools and told MPs that the government had “protected funding at a time when we are dealing with an historic budget deficit”.
Mr Gibb said schools were receiving more than ever before – and that this would rise with a further increase in the school population.
The way that school funding is shared out to individual schools is also being changed – with the launch of a new funding formula.
The schools minister said that the government had “grasped the nettle” on needing to reform a funding system that was often uneven and unfair.
But there was no “silver bullet” on school funding, he said, and switching to a new formula would mean winners and losers.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said these figures were about income and expenditure within the year – rather than overall deficits.
“An academy trust is required by law to balance its budget from each academic financial year to the next,” said the DFE spokeswoman.
“Where the board of an academy is proposing to set a deficit budget for the current financial year, it must notify the Education Funding Agency (EFA).
“Wherever appropriate, the EFA will provide support to academy trusts experiencing financial difficulty but where we find financial mismanagement or irregularities we will not hesitate to take swift action.”
The government is planning an international recruitment drive for specialist maths and physics teachers for the first time since the 1970s.
It is tendering for a £300,000 contract to recruit teachers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and the US.
It comes as the Migration Advisory Committee recommended widening the number of subjects for which schools could recruit from non-EU countries.
The committee held back from declaring a national shortage of teachers
Head teachers, most of whom have been struggling to recruit in all subjects areas, said the committee’s findings were “very disappointing indeed”.
It found a continuing shortage of teachers in physics and maths and added computer science and Mandarin to the list.
This justified the recruitment of teachers in these subjects from countries outside the European Union, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said.
Placing these subject teachers on the shortage list effectively makes it easier for schools to recruit them, by lifting immigration controls on them.
The DfE’s International Teacher Recruitment Strategy, initially in maths and physics for secondary schools, was revealed when the BBC obtained papers relating to the contract,
It involves employing a private company to “support schools in recruiting qualified teachers in shortage subjects from overseas into English secondary schools”.
The contract talks of recruiting 50 maths and physics teachers initially, but this may be expanded to cover other subjects, the paperwork shows.
It is thought to be the first government-sponsored international recruitment strategy since the mid-1970s, when teachers were also in short supply.
It may be seen as a way of side-stepping any potential impact of new immigration controls attached to Brexit.
Currently, schools recruit teachers from EU countries without any visa restrictions.
Malcolm Trobe, acting general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was good that the DfE had recognised this was an issue that needed addressing but added: “Fifty teachers in these key subjects is a fairly low target figure given the scale of the problem faced.”
The finding that there was no occupation-wide shortage of teachers “flies in the face of the evidence”, he said.
“That is the experience of schools up and down the country which are dealing with a full-blown teacher recruitment crisis,” he said.
“School leaders are reporting severe difficulties in recruiting staff in many subjects, and they are deeply concerned about the impact on their pupils.”
The ASCL had called for the shortage occupation list to be extended in order to make it easier for schools to recruit from outside the European Economic Area to help plug these shortfalls, Mr Trobe said.
It was a shame that schools would be denied this opportunity in many subjects, he added.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “While the MAC’s report highlights that there is no shortage of teachers nationally, we recognise there are challenges.
“That is why we are spending more than £1.3bn over this Parliament to help attract the brightest and best into the profession, including offering generous tax-free bursaries and scholarships in key subjects and through our teacher recruitment campaign: Your Future: Their Future.”
The Migration Advisory Committee was asked by then Home Secretary Theresa May to assess whether there was a national shortage of teachers or just a shortage in some subjects.
It comes after trainee teacher targets were missed four years running.
Currently, teachers who qualified in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US, as well as in the European Union, are allowed to register their qualifications to obtain qualified teacher status in England.
Rikama Education are recruiting international teachers to come and work in Kent. We are currently reaching out to teachers across Europe, Canada and Australia, but will be working across more countries in the near future.
With such a shortage of teachers here in the UK and a shortage of teaching jobs in other countries Rikama Education plan on helping those who are struggling by helping them find work.
Above is a picture from a job fair we attended in Canada at Western University. Although it didn’t have a great turn out we didn’t give up there! Our next visit was to York University which had a much bigger turn out. Attending these job fairs, we hope to find teachers to help the crisis in the education industry. Our trip to Canada turned out the be quiet successful and we hope to return soon to help NQT’s and qualified teachers find jobs in Kent.
We would like to thank the universities for letting us attend the job fairs, and everyone who turned up and was interested in Rikama Education and what we have to offer.Read more
Schools should encourage pupils with poor grades to mix with stronger students if they want to keep them in education, suggests a study.
Positive parental and friendship group influences are key to cutting drop-out rates, according to Arizona State University research.
The researchers interviewed vulnerable students at a Chicago high school.
Parents’ influence fell if pupils had too much contact with other disaffected students, the researchers found.
The researchers spoke to 125 pupils, aged 15 to 18, at a school with one of the worst drop-out rates in the city and analysed their records.
They concluded that students’ academic achievement was directly related to the level of parental involvement “more than any factors”.
But they also found that if vulnerable students had too much contact with peers with a negative view of education, “the effect of parental involvement on the dynamics of dropouts becomes negligible”.
Waste of time?
In the United States, most students are expected to finish high school in 12th grade, aged 17 or 18.
Anyone who leaves without finishing is termed a “dropout”.
In 2012, more than 3 million students dropped out from high school, says the paper, with higher rates among low income groups, including Hispanic and African American communities.
This means around 17,000 students drop out daily and 31 million people could be high school drop-outs by 2022, say the authors.
Being a dropout means lower earnings and greater reliance on welfare and has a knock-on effect on the wider economy, says the paper.
“This is a problem we can’t afford to accept or ignore,” according to President Obama in 2010, quoted in the paper.
The 125 students were asked about parental involvement and peer influences, including numbers of friends who had dropped out and these friends’ attitudes to school.
According to the study, almost half “were in frequent contact with individuals who think that attending school is a waste of time”.
The study found that if vulnerable students were identified early and parents increased their involvement, their numbers of disaffected friends would fall.
But if intervention was left until until students were actively failing at school, attempts at parental guidance were futile.
The researchers advise schools with high drop-out rates to encourage vulnerable students to mix with a wider group of pupils, not just other vulnerable or failing pupils, while fostering parental involvement.
“Then they can achieve sustained reduction in the number of dropouts,” they conclude.