Plan for new education chancellors ridiculed by council leader and minister

Newcastle Council leader and education minister rubbish education secretary's plan for new education chancellors

Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove

A new regional education chancellor covering schools from Manchester to Newcastle will “be as remote as Whitehall and bring no new money,” it was last night claimed.

Education secretary Michael Gove has created the powerful new posts to oversee free schools and academies, supported by a board of head teachers.

After months of criticising North East schools and turning down pleas for a funding pot modelled on a successful London scheme, Mr Gove’s latest reform has been rubbished in a meeting between education minister David Laws and Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes.

Across the country there will be eight of the new posts, advertised at a starting salary of around £140,000, with Mr Gove insisting the chancellors have an office in a local school and not a Government building.

Last night Mr Forbes said he had told the Department for Education that the posts were a distraction from the real challenges facing the North East.

He told The Journal: “If the idea is to take decision making about schools closer to local levels, then someone based in Manchester or Leeds is as relevant to the region as someone based in Whitehall.

“I have mentioned to David Laws that if the Government wants scrutiny of these schools they have a ready made system in local government, which could do it at no extra cost.

“We have seen ideas like this in the past. They are subject to mission creep and before we know it we have unelected, unaccountable civil servants responsible for vast areas and huge public funds.

“What they should do is build on excellent school improvements in places such as Newcastle, but instead they want to introduce a new layer of bureaucracy, with all the associated costs.

“I would question whether that will do anything to drive down costs or do anything to drive up standards. A school challenge, similar to that which happened in London, would have a far greater impact and a much greater use of resources.”

In London millions of pounds went into schools with low achievement records in an attempt to improve teaching in areas where students are likely to come from a background of poverty.

In his report on the North East economic, Lord Adonis said repeating the scheme in the region should be a priority, and has since warned the Government that it will fail to improve standards without providing funding.

North East political leaders have been in an increasingly bitter battle with the Education Secretary over the fate of the region’s schools.

Mr Gove has refused to back down after saying he could “smell defeatism” in some North East schools, adding to his claims with a warning that “a lot needs to be done in the North East in order to improve education.”

But rather than hand over funding for a Challenge North East model praised by Mr Laws, the Conservative MP has hit out at North East council leaders who he says are hindering reforms with their opposition to academies and free schools.

A DfE spokesman said: “The eight commissioners will oversee academies in their regions, taking on many of the functions made in Whitehall.

“This includes driving underperformance in academies, ensuring there are enough sponsors in areas and approving academies. This will mean greater autonomy for academies, and less interference and bureaucracy.”

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