How local authority schools support school improvement as ‘system leaders’

Janet Downs's picture

57% of National Leaders of Governance work in LA schools

Over half of the National Leaders of Governance (NLGs), were working in local authority (LA) maintained schools as a 31 August 2017, Department for Education (DfE) figures* reveal.

NLGs are ‘highly effective chairs of governors’ who support other school governing body chairs. 

43% of NLGs were working in academies.  Governing bodies in academy trusts have little power – decisions are made at trustee level.  This would diminish the ability of an NLG in an academy to offer support.

45% of state-funded Teaching Schools are LA schools

Just under half of all Teaching Schools are LA-maintained.  Teaching Schools are responsible for delivering initial teacher training and professional development in collaboration with other local institutions.

Teaching Schools are also responsible for selecting and supporting Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs).   These are middle and senior school leaders  chosen for their skills and expertise to offer peer-to-peer support.      There are currently 8,000 SLEs drawn from all types of schools**.

48% of all National Leaders of Education are in LA schools

Nearly half of all National Leaders of Education (NLEs) work in LA schools.   NLEs are heads of National Support Schools, ‘strong schools’ whose expertise aims ‘to improve the quality of teaching and leadership in schools in challenging circumstances’.

This figure is revealing.  We are constantly told that the best way to improve schools is for them to become academies, preferably with a sponsor.  Yet nearly 50% of schools helping to improve challenging schools are LA maintained.  Presumably these have some success or they wouldn’t be designated as NLEs.  It would be more cost effective, therefore, to encourage NLEs in LA schools to support improvement rather than force challenging schools to become academies.

LA schools contribute to Maths Hubs

There are 35 Maths Hubs serving large geographical areas in England.  Every school, whether an academy or LA-maintained, is entitled to join a Maths Hub.  These area-wide initiatives can be led by individual schools, academy trusts and Teaching School Alliances.  Each hub has strategic partners which can include local universities, individual schools, academy trusts, school alliances and federations.  

LA schools contribute strongly to school improvement

The figures show schools from the much-maligned LA sector make a strong contribution to school improvement in England.

But the DfE implies it is only academies that do so.  It uses the Academy Schools Consolidated Annual Report and Accounts   to praise academies’ contribution to school improvement.   Only the footnotes* reveal a breakdown which shows LA schools play a large part.

In truth, both LA schools and academy trusts contribute to school improvement.  It’s misleading for the DfE to confine praise to contribution made by academies implying that only academies provide school improvement.  This article is an attempt to redress the balance.


*See footnotes on page 21 here.  

**I don’t have a breakdown of where SLEs are working but it’s likely a large number are from LA-maintained schools and a large number from academies.

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