Opinion: We need to address the need for a re-balance in education localism

If we, as Lib Dems, have learnt anything from the march from complete local authority control, through self-management of schools and on to the drive for academies and free schools, it is that localism in education should not just be about empowering head teachers and governing bodies but must also raise standards across the board.  If this means bringing back some of those vital local authority-run ancillary services that allow heads to concentrate on the quality of teaching, so be it. Dogmatic opposition based on historic myth or anecdotal evidence has no place in education policy.

As we have witnessed over the last three years, the relentless approach of the Secretary of State to a continual reform agenda – a few good, many not so good, and some downright awful from our local government Lib Dem perspective – has meant that problems such as the provision of sufficient school places and the needs of vulnerable pupils haven’t had a proper look in. Whilst it is okay to notice OFSTED looking at regional structures in order to undertake improvement, as well as inspection, is it enough without the input of the localised knowledge only a Council can supply? I think not.

Whether academics, journalists or Eric Pickles like it or not, local authorities are part of localism.  As the originators of localism in action, we Lib Dems understand this.  We also know that some services are too important to devolve to the micro-level.  Councils, of all political persuasion, have so much they can contribute to the new education landscape beyond the morsel of being ‘children’s champions’. Responsibility without authority rarely works and, in the context of education, is a damaging missed opportunity; we need all levels to be working together, not carving out territories from which others are excluded.

It is with all this in mind, and a belief that disconnecting local elected Councils from the education improvement process will lead to more problems requiring extensive intervention later, that I propose my one priority recommendation to the Lib Dems: When looking at the future of localism in education we have to ensure a positive meaningful role for Councils. We need to be promoting the position that local authorities should have the powers and the ability to help all children, through working with and in schools, to maximise the value of their local education. Not only is that good education policy – it is effective, realistic localism in action.

This piece appears as part of a collection of essays on the future of local government collated by the New Local Government Network.

* Councillor Liz Green is the former Leader of RB Kingston Upon Thames and the LGA Liberal Democrat Sector Improvement Lead.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • Liz’s telling comment is that Lib Dems understand that local authorities (let’s call them councils, shall we?) are part of localism. I would go further – Councils are how we democratically express our “localism”. Lib Dems, and Liberals since “Community Politics” in the 70s, have championed election to councils to change things locally in response to local need and desires. Gove, Pickles etc are moving in the opposite direction. Taking powers away from councils is neither democratic, nor localist. Our party nationally has not properly come to grips with this in coalition with the amazing amount of leftover Thatcherite centralist thinking among top Tories.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Roland
    Attach an Apple Air Tag to your sign, whilst it won’t stop the sign being removed, you stand a good chance of locating where it’s been taken to…...
  • John Marriott
    @Peter Martin Under PR I reckon that, with their current opinion poll rating of around 12%, the Lib Dems might expect to get around 78 seats at Westminster. @...
  • David Blake
    Many years ago, my girlfriend at the time was living in a flat owned by the local Conservatives. One weekend all the power went out. The fusebox was in the ba...
  • Tom Hannigan
    The 3 main parties in Ireland frequently nominate more than one candidate in our multi seat constituencies which can have 3,4 or 5 seats. It depends on what you...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Andrew, You seem to be somewhat contradictory on your "solidarity fund". Whatever you want to call it it will mean that if someone moves to Germany fro...