Academies Need Closer Relationship With Local Authorities

With half of all secondary schools having become autonomous academies, it might appear that the links between schools and local authorities would become weaker. However, former ministerial adviser on education, Robert Hill, argues that the relationship should be strengthened.

Gareth Williams, Director of the Children and Young People’s Service at Leicestershire County Council agrees. “Local authorities will change their role in terms of delivering education from the way they used to in the past, according to the way the 2010-2011,” he said.

“The schools budget is a huge proportion of a local authority’s budget – the balance in terms of money that went straight to schools through the local authority budget, to now most schools taking money directly from DfE, is a fundamental change for local authorities down the line. This is as fundamental as the health reforms in terms of a change in how public service is delivered.”

Some local authorities are concerned that academies might actually be adding to their budgetary burden rather than removing it. Councils continue to provide statutory services and other services to schools, but it is up to the academy schools which of those services they buy back. In reality, some schools buy back some of the services while others buy different ones or none at all.

This could also lead to local authority job losses, according to Dean Shoesmith, head of HR at Sutton and Merton councils, who said: “The buyback of services often means they’re not brought back from the local authority, so HR, finance, IT… there are immediate redundancy implications for those support services in a local authority.”

However, according to Shoesmith, in Lambeth, where 40 per cent of secondary schools are now academies, “the relationships have strengthened … because there is a need to ensure that partnerships are strong and the sharing of information is robust.”

As an accountant, Gill Freeman specialises within academy finances and charity tax.

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