Local authority control of schools: not such a bad idea?

We are used to rows about education in Northern Ireland. England, however, has been having its own rows over Michael Gove’s Free Schools. Free schools are free to attend and also free from the control of the local authority. This is presented as a good idea freeing schools from political control – usually the implication being of control from “loony left” councils (if there are any of them left). Gove’s plans recently suffered a minor set back when a Muslim Free School in Derby was labelled “dysfunctional” and inadequate in all areas by an Ofsted inspection.

The latest education row to hit the headlines, however, concerns a standard local authority run school though it casts the local authority in a better light as the voice of sanity.

Littleton Green Community School, Cannock in Staffordshire had organised a trip to Staffordshire University to “explore other religions” (according to the Daily Mail largely Islam). Nothing terribly controverial thus far: The problem, however, came with the apparent threat in the letter to parents.

‘Refusal to allow your child to attend will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.

All absences on this day will be investigated for their credibility and will only be sanctioned with a GP sick note.’

The local authority (admittedly Tory run) stepped in and forced the headteacher to make what seems to have been a pretty groveling apology. Maybe local authority control of schools is not such a bad idea after all? Had the school been a free school it is unclear if the head had the support of the governors who apart from the Secretary of State could have intervened to stop this threatening nonsense.


  • Charles_Gould

    Our Voluntary Grammars and Maintained Schools don’t seem to have this problem and aren’t controlled by local authorities.

  • Sp12

    No need to look to England for a case in point Turgon, would LA control of schools here have allowed Lisneal college to distribute letters (addressed to the LA ironically enough) for the children to sign that read

    “As a young person living in this city I am very worried that the proposal to change the name of the city is aimed at removing all signs of Protestant identity from the city.
    It impacts on my political and cultural beliefs and I believe that it shows a lack of respect or tolerance for these beliefs.
    Through school and youth activities we have been encouraged to explore relationships across the community divides but it will be extremely difficult to continue to have any belief in the value of this work if this change goes through as I feel, as a young person, that my viewpoint is being ignored and is falling on deaf ears.”

    including to the Catholic pupils who the Loyalist Action Committee (responsible for drafting the letter) didn’t realise (or care) actually attended the school?

  • Barney

    Charles that isnt true, my kids attend a protestant school and both were scolded for saying Derry, I know for a fact that the converse would never happen.

  • BluesJazz

    |Do your children attend an ‘Independent’ Christian School(i.e. Free Presbyterian)?
    They’re the only Protestant schools in NI. The rest are either State secular or Catholic, apart from Rudolf Steiner,

  • Sp12

    Would state secular schools include schools that send out letters on the behalf Loyalist Action Committees decrying the loss of Protestant Identity because they believed a school to be a ‘totally protestant’ Bluejazz?

  • BluesJazz

    No they would not. That would not be a secular school.
    Schools should not be ‘religious’. Unless they’re openly unscientific and non evidence based.
    No school that has a faith based ethos, rather than an one based in scientific rational should receive a penny of state funding.

  • BluesJazz

    How anyone believes in nonsense like ‘spirituality’ or ‘faith’ is beyond me, but I presume it exists, like astrology, among the less educated.

    Ignorance will always proliferate in the underclass.

  • Sp12

    Lisneal’s actions were not faith, but politically based.
    Should schools that take overtly politically stances, like the largest state school in the north west be cut off from state funding?

  • Barney

    They go to one controlled by the methodist church

  • cynic2

    Would we agree with a Scientologist school here? What about a Muslim school with a commitment to JIhad?

    In any case its simple. Make all schools, free and controlled by Governors elected by the parents and who must be parents. Give them the power to hire and fire the Headteacher. Ban all clergy from being on the Board and have ESA inspect them only for results not for policies set centrally by the Department.

    And watch the majority flourish.

    Some will fail – as they do now – except then the funding will go and they will close whereas now its covered up and they stagger on

  • aquifer

    But some GB local authorities seem as big as NI, so there could be reasonable economies of administration. Not so here.

    Giving schools to councils looks dangerous when local parties are practically faith-based themselves.