It is 25 years since a relatively small group of schools declared their independence from local education authorities and became grant maintained. At that time those at the heart of the Grant Maintained movement were hoping for a speedy demise of local authorities and some have been disappointed at what they see as very slow progress.
Others will see things very differently but whatever one’s views, change is definitely on the way. In his March 2016 budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer finally announced that education would now be taken out of local authority control with all schools becoming academies by 2022. This will require a considerable rethink. Whole swathes of legislation and statutory and central government guidance will have to be completely rewritten. School leadership teams and governors will have to make sense of it all and they will have to deal with Whitehall. What are the implications for OFSTED? How will underperforming schools and academies be sanctioned? Will the government specify how complaints and disputes should be resolved and will, as we sincerely hope, mediation be seen as part of the solution? We have no idea at present but the chances are that there will be scope for some further ASMPlus blogs.
There is however one element of education that looks set to remain within local authority control namely school admissions. There is a distinct logic in the Chancellor’s decision to keep this important function within the remit of individual local authorities. Regular school attendance is compulsory and without some element of local supervision it could be very easy for a child goes missing school to remain unnoticed.
However, with all schools becoming academies the task of managing school admissions is not going to be an easy one as every academy can have its own criteria for entry. A large local authority such as Kent or Essex, may find itself having to try and navigate through literally hundreds of unique admissions criteria. This is certainly not a task to be envied especially as in some quarters there is already disquiet over the manner in which local authority currently oversee the admissions process. Thank goodness there are a few well established and independent mediation companies, such as ASM Plus that have the expertise to help resolve the inevitable disputes.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.