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Exclusive: Labour searching for ways to make academies accountable

Report on National Education Service looks to adult education sector and FE models of accountability

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Report on National Education Service looks to adult education sector and FE models of accountability

A future Labour government could look to the adult education sector as a model to make academies answerable to their communities, a document seen by Tes suggests.

The report from the party’s Early Years, Education and Skills Policy Commission raises local accountability of academies as a key issue, but admits there is “more for the commission to do” in this area.

The document comes a year after shadow education secretary Angela Rayner unveiled a 10-point draft charter for Labour’s proposed National Education Service (NES).

Since then, the commission, which is part of Labour’s National Policy Forum, has been holding consultations and meetings to develop these 10 principles “as its priority issue”.

Its report for Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool, which starts today, avoids concrete proposals on issues such as school funding, oversight of academies, or the future of grammar schools.

However, it says that the accountability of institutions within the NES “weighed heavily in submissions”, and that “many highlighted considerable concern about the lack of local accountability in academies, multi-academy trusts and free schools”.

The lack of parental voice in academies, and CEO pay, were also put forward as concerns for the NES to consider.

The report hints that Labour is looking to the adult education sector for inspiration about holding academies to account in the future.

It says: “A large proportion of submissions reiterated that many parts of the education system are already accountable to their local communities and that there are lessons that can be learned from these sectors.

“This was particularly apparent in submissions from organisations that work in and represent further education and adult education.”

The report quotes a submission from the Institutes for Adult Learning, which says adult education providers are “firmly rooted in local communities and both student profile and governance structures tend to reflect this”.

The report adds that while Labour “is clear that all education institutions that receive funding within the NES will be transparent and accountable to the public, communities, parents and children that it serves”, further work was needed, and “it is apparent from the submissions and discussions this year that there is more for the commission to do”.

The document also warns that the current financial squeeze could limit what the proposed NES could do, saying “the serious financial challenges facing the sector now will impact the education system Labour inherits and so the development of the NES will need to give this due consideration.”

It also raises the fact that last year’s draft charter did not explicitly refer to adults and children with SEND, and the says: “We heard a clear call in the contributions to the consultation that there needs to be an explicit reference to children and adults with SEND in the charter.”

The report says many submissions blamed Ofsted, in part, for the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and adds: “We have heard concerns that the current inspection framework is not fit for purpose and this is something the commission will look to address as we build a policy platform ahead of the next general election.”

The commission also reiterates Labour’s pledge to abolish the baseline assessment, and to launch a commission to look at curriculum and assessment.

The document does not discuss whether grammar schools and academic selection should continue, and instead reaffirms Labour’s opposition to the government’s funding to help existing grammar schools expand.

The commission adds that alternative provision is “a topic that needs further consideration in order to ensure that the most vulnerable are able to access the high-quality education they deserve”.

Last week, Angela Rayner pledged a Labour action would take action against the off-rolling of pupils, many of whom end up in alternative provision.

It also says that “it is important to ensure every principle refers to all staff that work in education, not just educators”.

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