Councils to sell services under plans for schools white paper

By Lauren Higgs

| 06 September 2010

Councils are being primed for a role as market players in the education system, charged with selling school improvement services and courting private providers, CYP Now has learned.

The proposals for a new "pro-competition, pro-choice and pro-parents" approach to children's services are contained in plans for the government's forthcoming schools white paper.

Draft ideas are currently under scrutiny by the ministerial advisory group on the role of the local authority in education and children's services, to allow councils to help shape the changes.

This group includes officials from the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, among others.

Plans under consideration include a suggestion that councils could offer school improvement services "on a traded basis in the market".

Authorities could also be pitted against each other over achieving school improvement in exchange for funding. This would be based on American programmes, such as Race to the Top, which rewards US states with cash for improving local education.

There are also plans to simplify the schools admissions framework and to revise the structure for setting up schools to allow for more faith schools and special schools.

The present duty for local authorities to secure sufficient school places in their area is likely to be changed to "a duty to secure sufficient high-quality places".

Education providers would have to meet certain standards, or risk being decommissioned, and local authorities would have to "influence" the expansion of good schools to meet demand.

On 16 to 19 education, as with school improvement, the white paper is likely to ask councils to develop the market, by using a "supportive approach" to working with new providers, to encourage a range of local provision.

When asked, the Department for Education was unable to give a timescale for the publication of the white paper and the subsequent bill, but it is expected to be published in late October, with legislation announced at the end of November.

Meanwhile, the advisory group is to meet this Thursday to discuss the plans. Sub-groups on commissioning in education and youth services, school improvement and vulnerable children will thrash out details on issues such as exclusions.

The advisory group, announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove at the LGA annual conference in July, will also feed into the government's review of special educational needs.

ADVISORY GROUP

Members of the ministerial advisory group on the role of local authorities include:

  • Shireen Ritchie, chair, LGA children and young people board
  • Marion Davis, president, ADCS
  • Matt Dunkley, vice-president, ADCS
  • Peter Dwyer, director of adults and children's services, York
  • Nick Hudson, director of children's services, Wigan
  • Eleanor Schooling, director of children's services, Islington
  • Mark Rogers, chief executive, Solihull Council
  • Andrew Povey, leader, Surrey County Council
  • Daniel Moynihan, chief executive, Harris Federation
  • Lucy Heller, managing director for UK schools, Ark schools
  • James Kempton, adviser, Mouchel Management Consulting
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