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Council says ,'let us get on with the job'

Governors don't like city academies; they value their education authorities, reports Karen Thornton

GOOD news for beleaguered education authorities - governors like you. Bad news for ministers - governors don't like many of the proposals for increasing diversity in the secondary sector that are being pursued by the Government.

The National Governors' Council has lined up alongside the National Association of Governors and Management (see TES, June 8) to protest against plans for more specialist and faith-run schools, city academies, and greater freedom for "successful" schools. These Green Paper proposals form the basis of a new Education Bill, announced in this week's Queen's Speech.

In its response to consultations on the Green Paper, the NGC describes city academies as "independent state-financed schools owned and run by private sponsors". Governors, it says, are generally opposed to specialist schools and instead favour "good, well-funded community-based comprehensives".

They are unhappy about additional funding for specialist status being available only to some schools, and reject the idea that such schools should have to raise private sponsorship "to fund adequate facilities for education, access to which should be the right of every child".

When it comes to the private sector and voluntary organisations being given contracts to run failing schools, NGC chairwoman Chris Gale notes: "We are aware of no evidence that 'external sponsors' are likely to be successful with 'failing schools'. We are concerned about how such sponsors would be locally accountable, and the lack of consideration of xit strategies at the end of the contract."

She adds: "We believe that all these proposals to extend diversity in the secondary system are likely to be divisive and undermine the ability of schools both to serve the needs of their local communities and to provide a cohesive community focus in a highly diverse, multicultural society."

Unlike ministers, some would argue, the NGC sees a continuing role for a strong, well-funded and supportive education authority.

It states: "We are not in favour of further delegation (of funding to schools). We resent the implicit notion that all LEAs are automatically bad. We are concerned that any further delegation would further limit the capacities of LEAs to support all schools, particularly as regards the LEA role in school improvement. All schools potentially benefit from this now, even if 'successful', and all LEAs should have sufficient resources to perform this role effectively."

It also highlights concerns that allowing some schools greater freedom over the curriculum could undermine youngsters' "universal entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum".

Similar freedom over teachers' pay and conditions could also widen the gap between the haves and have-nots of the state system, with those already struggling to recruit staff falling further behind.

None of the schools in the 73 education action zones so far established has exercised this freedom, notes the NGC.

It welcomes the Green Paper's recognition of the role of governing bodies in school leadership and improvement, but pleads: "Please let us get on with the job."

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