Responding to this year’s Ofsted Annual Report, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“Every child, regardless of their circumstances, deserves a good education. To ensure every child has a good school place, councils must be allowed to direct all schools to expand to meet sharply increasing demand for school places; ensure they take vulnerable pupils if it’s in the child’s best interests; have a say on where new schools are built; and be able to set up their own Trusts to support any orphaned schools forced into becoming an academy if they cannot find a willing sponsor.
“Ninety-one per cent of maintained schools are now rated as either outstanding or good, which is a great achievement that must now be acknowledged by central government. Councils must now be recognised as improvement partners, and be allowed to help all schools improve where necessary, including academies and free schools.
“The LGA was clear with government from the outset that SEND reforms set out in the Children and Families Act were significantly underfunded. There is increasing concern among councils that at a time of rising demand, they will be unable to meet the needs and expectations of children and families in their areas.
“Home schooling is an option for parents but it should never be because they are unable to find a school willing to accept their child. Councils have a statutory duty to ensure every child has access to a good education, but with home schooling they are currently working with one hand behind their backs. Unless a safeguarding concern has been raised, councils are powerless to gain entry into a home to check that a child is being educated correctly, and we know that in some cases, a child listed as home schooled can in fact be attending an illegal school. If councils have powers and appropriate funding to check up on children’s schooling, we can help make sure children aren’t being taught in dangerous environments, and are getting the education they deserve, while standing a better chance of finding and tackling illegal, unregulated schools more quickly. A compulsory register for parents to report home schooling each year would be extremely helpful.
“We are deeply concerned for children who are currently in youth offending institutions. Councils have the legal responsibility for making appropriate education provision, but currently, they have no powers to make sure children in these institutions are receiving the support they need. The fact that HM Inspector of Prisons found that not a single establishment inspected in England and Wales was safe to hold children and young people earlier this year makes their chances of a good education even less likely. This is unacceptable
“It is good news, however, that the number of children’s services departments rated as either good or outstanding is rising. Children’s services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. Councils fear that without adequate funding from government in this month’s Local Government Finance Settlement, this improvement work will be severely jeopardised.”