This consultation could force academisation by the back door

The DfE recently released a consultation “seeking views on proposals to reform how local authorities’ school improvement functions are funded”. The proposal is simple: withdraw central funding and allow local authorities to fill the gap through de-delegation from schools’ budget shares.

Reading the consultation, it is clear that LA maintained schools have been well supported by the fund, to the extent that fewer than one in five councils has issued a warning notice in each of the past three years. The funding has allowed local authorities to put support in place before a school gets into real difficulties.

This means that the children in these schools have avoided the disruption, stigma and de-motivation that come with a negative Ofsted grading. Instead, they have reaped the rewards of early intervention, funded support and locally knowledgeable improvement partners.

So if this is the impact of the funding, it rather begs the question: why remove it? I may be cynical, but I simply can’t think of any reason to do so other than to achieve a political aim – one that isn’t really about school improvement, because that is clearly already happening.

Could this have something to do with the fact that the government are still banging the academy drum? Nadhim Zahawi has so far taken a more measured tone about the Conservatives’ decade-long aspiration of a fully academised system, but is that because the DfE has changed tack?

Momentum towards academy conversion has slowed, and those that remain LA schools are not moving in the government’s direction willingly. This feels like a very underhanded tactic to force academisation through the back door.

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