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School improvement … whose role is it?

February 6, 2012

The Schools White Paper, 2010, ‘The Importance of Teaching’ makes it clear that schools are responsible for their own improvement.

At the Education Select Committee on 31 January 2012, Michael Gove said that ‘academies can choose to purchase school improvement services from their local authority or from somewhere else’. This is consistent with what is said in the White Paper about schools having the choice over where they get their improvement support.

The White Paper said that there will be a range of providers of school improvement services from which schools can choose – including national and local leaders in education, teaching schools and working in partnership with a strong school. Interestingly this list does not include local authorities. However, the White Paper states that a local authority can decide what role it wishes to play in supporting school improvement. This can include the provision of improvement services for schools that want to get this support from their local authority.

The White Paper is clear that it is up to schools to decide how school improvement is delivered, however, the Education Act does not explain how this will be achieved.

It is important that the expected regulations give practical effect to the aims of the White Paper.

Briefing on school improvement in the Schools White Paper

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What role for Local Authorities in Education?

October 26, 2011

According to latest Government figures, there are now 1350 academies in England.

This Government has declared its intention to make all schools academies – an extension of the previous government’s policy which introduced academy status but only as a way of improving failing schools.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, says that academy schools will benefit from greater freedoms and flexibilities and be freed from local authority control.

An academy school is a publicly funded independent school, that is no longer maintained by the local authority, but is directly funded by and accountable to the Department for Education.

However, Michael Gove has said that: “in a more autonomous schools system, local authorities have a crucial role to play” in “championing parents and families, supporting vulnerable families and championing education excellence”.

The government insists that councils will still perform a “strong strategic” role in education.

Politicians, educational professionals and unions are now arguing about what this means and jostling for a position in this new world order. But there are bigger issues around accountability and scrutiny in education that existed before any schools became academies.

The real challenge is to define a new role for local authorities that provides effective local accountability and scrutiny of education without them having to interfere with the day-to-day running of schools, or necessarily providing education itself.

New relationships for health scrutiny

October 19, 2011

Under the Government’s NHS Reforms, health scrutiny bodies will need to work with and establish effective relationships with a range of new organisations involved in the commissioning and delivery of health and social care.

To help health scrutiny practitioners to understand this new landscape, and as a result of working with health scrutiny officers and members ‘on the ground’, I have produced this diagram to summarise the key relationships for health scrutiny in the new system.

You can download the diagram as a pdf here.

For a description of the main relationships for health scrutiny under the NHS reforms, with an outline of the key bodies and functions relevant to health scrutiny, read this briefing.

Perceptions of Involvement

October 7, 2011

We want to find out what people think about their involvement in their community, to contribute to the current debate around engagement and the ‘big society’, and to inform our work to help promote citizenship, community engagement, empowerment and accountability in the public, community and voluntary sector and in social enterprise.

Please give us your views by clicking on the survey link below.

Perceptions of Involvement Survey

Government moves on accountability for NHS

June 21, 2011

On 6 April 2011 the Government announced that it would “pause, listen and reflect” on its NHS reform plans and established the NHS Future Forum to lead the 8-week “listening exercise”. The NHS Future Forum issued its report on 13 June.

In response to the NHS Future Forum report, the Government has announced changes to its NHS reform plans that adopt many of the Future Forum’s proposals and address many of the concerns raised since the publication of the Health White Paper in July 2010.

We welcome these changes, in particular those concerned with accountability and scrutiny that go some way in correcting the flaws in their original proposals and concede many of the objections and suggestions that we along with many others made at the time.

We have produced a brief summary of the Government’s latest proposals –
NHS listening whats new

It should be read in conjunction with our briefing, The Health White Paper – what it says, our original response to the White Paper, and our update paper, The Health White Paper – What’s changed?, summarising the changes announced by the government following the consultation on the White Paper, which can all be found on the documents page.

Accountability and scrutiny must be central to NHS reforms

June 8, 2011

Any reforms to the NHS must follow the key principle that decisions on all publicly funded commissioning and provision should be taken by publicly accountable and open bodies, and should be subject to local authority scrutiny.

We welcome the Government’s confirmation that that health scrutiny should remain independent from the executive, and that both commissioning bodies and Health and Wellbeing Boards will be subject to scrutiny by local authority scrutiny committees.

There is a need for proper governance and transparency of commissioning consortia and of Health and Wellbeing Boards, with a broad membership including elected councilors and representatives of other health professions, not just GPs; and they need to be subject to independent scrutiny, regardless of the composition of their boards.

Further, in addition to the important role of HealthWatch enabling engagement if the wider community, patients and the public need to be involved effectively at every level from the strategic Health and Wellbeing Board, to actual service delivery.

You can see our response to the NHS Future Forum here – NHS FF response

Toolkit for LINk self evaluation

April 26, 2011

Working with my colleague Diana Coman, and using my knowledge of LINks policy and guidance and my experience supporting and developing LINks, I have produced an easy to use and effective toolkit to help LINks carry out a self evaluation and inform their development. have produced a simple to use toolkit for Local Involvement Networks to carry out a self evaluation to review their performance.

We have undertaken a trial of the pack, which was described as “… really good .. the questions were relevant and meaningful … It made us all think about how our LINk is working and how we can make it better…”.

For further details, see our flyer: LINk SA promo