Councils Should be Able to Create School Places

Majority of free school parents support council intervention

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The first survey of London parents’ attitudes to the new educational system reveals that a majority of parents (62 per cent) with children at a free school support councils having a role in dealing with underperforming free schools. This rises to 77 per cent of parents with children in a local authority maintained school who think local authorities should have powers of influence over maintained schools.

The YouGov attitudinal survey, commissioned by London Councils, which represents London’s 33 local authorities, provides evidence of high levels of support among parents for a local government role in taking action to ensure school standards remain high and children and young peoples’ interests are championed.  

The majority of parents (76 per cent) support a council role in creating school places through having the ability to influence all schools in their area to find more school places or expand, and 95 per cent think the greatest pressure on places is in London.

The survey also found that:

  • London is seen as the best performing region in terms of GCSE performance by London parents (77 per cent), followed by the south east (65 per cent) and the south west (42 per cent)
  • 91 per cent of parents with a child at a free school think local authorities have an important role in ensuring high educational standards
  • 78 per cent thought the council-run process of applying for a school place was ‘easy’ and 93 per cent got their child into one of their top three choices of schools – (with 72 per cent receiving their first place)
  • After the new school system was explained, 53 per cent of parents said that the education system is under more central government control than they had thought previously, with 29 per cent thinking the system was under more local control – 19 per cent did not know.

London’s school situation in particular is of national significance. London requires 118,000 places by 2017 –  and London’s schools have been transformed from one of the UK’s worst performing regions to the highest, following the launch of London Challenge, a partnership of councils, schools and government, in 2003. 

Cllr Peter John, London Councils’ Executive Member for Children and Young People, said: “Parents have been clear in this survey how essential good council involvement is in their children’s education.  It’s especially striking that free school parents are so strong in their support for councils’ work.

“Parents are plainly worried about the school places crisis and want a clear role for councils to work in partnership with all schools so that every child has a place and to ensure school standards continue to rise.

“The government should work with councils to ensure that schools are accountable locally to the communities they serve.”

November 14, 2013