Heads: 'The education sector does not need yet another body holding schools to account'
Headteachers have raised serious concerns over Labour’s proposals to hand parents the power to sack school leaders over results and standards.
The policy was unveiled today by Labour leader Ed Miliband ahead of a wider speech he will be giving this evening on the subject of public sector reform.
Under the plans, parents will be able to call in a specialist improvement team, which will be separate from Ofsted. It will have the power to intervene in all schools, including free schools and academies, and even remove failing heads.
Mr Miliband will say in his speech later today that the new measures will bring about a “new culture of people-powered public services”.
But the proposals have had a cold reception from heads’ leaders, who have called for Labour to engage with the profession rather than chasing headlines.
The Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was eager to have greater clarification over the plans, adding it would be seeking reassurances from Labour.
“It is clear that the election campaign season has started,” Brian Lightman, ASCL general secretary, said. “Parent power to sack headteachers may make good headlines but it won’t help to improve our education system in the long-run. We need to be reassured that any future government will be committed to supporting schools and school leaders rather than denigrating the profession.
“The education sector needs does not need yet another independent body holding schools to account. If there are issues with Ofsted, then these should be addressed and rectified.”
And Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said schools already had governing bodies that can fire headteachers, adding that being a headteacher was one of the most accountable jobs in the public sector.
"Being a head is not like being a faceless bureaucrat in Whitehall," Mr Hobby said. "They are already one of the most accountable positions out there and it should not be turned into a popularity contest.
"What happens if a new head comes in and cracks down on term-time holidays or brings in tougher behaviour and uniform policies that parents don't like and it then goes to a popular vote?"
Mr Miliband will say in his Hugo Young lecture this evening that parents must be given more control over standards in their school.
“Parents should not have to wait for somebody in Whitehall to intervene if they have serious concerns about how their school is doing whether it is a free school, academy or local authority school. In all schools there should be a parent call-in,” he is expected to say.
The new specialist team will be able to produce school improvement plans, broker greater collaboration between schools, bring in external expertise and even change staff and leadership teams.
The policy forms part of a wider review into school accountability being led by former education secretary David Blunkett, who will be reporting to Labour’s education spokesman Tristram Hunt with his findings.