David Cameron plans new powers to replace poor headteachers and governors

Special commissioners would be able to sack governing bodies and bring in new teachers

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The Independent Online

Sweeping powers will be given to government-appointed officials to remove governors and headteachers in failing schools if the Conservatives win the next election.

In a new manifesto pledge, David Cameron will announce today that eight regional school commissioners will also be able to wrest control away from local authorities. 

It will demonstrate that the Tory campaign to get as many schools as possible out of the reach of local councils will carry on despite the removal of Michael Gove from the Department for Education.

The commissioners were appointed by Mr Gove to oversee academies and free schools, which are funded directly by central government, but they currently have no authority over the thousands of state schools still run by local education authorities.

Under the Prime Minister’s new plan, the commissioners will have the power to take control of any school identified by Ofsted as failing, from the day the Ofsted report comes out.

“They will have the power to replace personnel on governing bodies, and governing bodies, in turn, can replace headteachers,” a Downing Street spokesman said. Mr Cameron will make the announcement in his first public engagement alongside the newly appointed Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan. They are also proposing to create a new corps of super-teachers, called the National Teacher Service, employed by the government, who could move into a failing school at short notice. It is planned that by 2020, the new service would have a pool of 1,500 teachers at its disposal.

The plan will run into a storm of controversy because it gives government officials the power to change the status of a local authority-controlled school at a stroke. There are also doubts about whether eight commissioners are enough to handle a task on this scale.

During the blame game that followed the “Trojan horse” affair, an alleged plot by Islamists to take over schools in Birmingham, Tories accused Birmingham Council of failing to act, while Labour blamed Mr Gove and officials for trying to deal with the situation remotely from London.

“The events in Birmingham have exposed David Cameron’s Government’s failure to deliver effective oversight of our schools,” Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, said. “Ministers have refused to take action throughout the entirety of this parliament. Ministers are now trying to play catch-up.”

Mr Hunt said that a Labour government would allow local authorities to select 70 to 80 Directors of School Standards, from an approved list drawn up by the Department for Education, with the power to deal with failing schools.

A Labour spokesman added: “The Government’s approach of more centralisation will mean that problems will continue to go unnoticed.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the headteachers’ union, the Association of School and College Leaders, said he agreed that “it makes no sense” to have different systems for dealing with failing schools according to whether they are academies or maintained by local councils. But he warned: “The Government will have to clarify the role of local authorities, which is becoming very confused.”

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