While the Tory-led Government's education policy is undermining the role of local authorities, centralising decision-making about schools and encouraging competition and fracture locally, Labour councils are seeking to promote cooperation between schools and demonstrating the value that local accountability can add to our education system.
- Newcastle City Council – Family of schools
- Sandwell Council – Concordat for education partners
- Liverpool City Council – Education Commission
- Newham London Borough Council – building children's resilience
In Newcastle the council is working with schools to maintain the 'Newcastle family of schools' whereby schools work collaboratively rather than in competition. The council has committed to limiting the number of academies and free schools where they would prove detrimental to collaboration. Instead it is encouraging cooperative schools, as part of its overall commitment to being a Cooperative Council, which would create member structures which involve parents, learners, staff and community organisations to be directly involved. The council is also working with schools to introduce a city-wide trust model to sustain partnership and collaboration. Newcastle's commitment to fairness has led to specific initiatives, such as a campaign to encourage take-up of free school meals by increasing awareness and making it easier to apply, and after the Tory-led Government abolished the Educational Maintenance Allowance the council introduced a replacement scheme for Newcastle pupils.
Sandwell Council has developed a Concordat in order to set out shared objectives, promote dialogue and agree roles between the local authority, schools and other partners in the borough. The Concordat states that the promotion of learning and the improvement of achievement are key partnership goals that signatories will work towards. It explicitly recognises the important role of the family in supporting children and the importance of developing and maintaining social cohesion. Based on an understanding of the need to have positive dialogue and good relationships, the Concordat has been crucial as a foundation for the new relationship with schools and other partners and has led to a clarity of understanding and agreement.
The Mayor of Liverpool has set up an independent Education Commission, chaired by former Education Secretary Estelle Morris, Baroness of Yardley, to better understand and tackle the specific education challenges that exist in the city. It is tasked with reviewing Liverpool's progress against national benchmarks, and identifying areas of underachievement and groups that need more support. Demonstrating the value of strong local partnership working, the Commission has drawn together representatives of local headteachers and governors, further education providers, religious representatives and trade unions, and will receive evidence from young people, businesses, universities and cultural institutions. The final report and recommendations to the Mayor will set out a vision for the education of young people in the city with benchmarks for attaining it, and an investment plan to build 12 new primary, secondary and special schools for the city.
The London Borough of Newham provides free school meals for all primary school children, which has developmental benefits and helps working families. To tackle previously low literacy rates in the borough the council has committed to a minimum 90 per cent literacy target by 2014 and through its Every Child a Reader programme is working with schools to roll out the use of systematic synthetic phonics in the classroom, which is backed by additional support for those who fall behind. In order to widen access to music, break down barriers to participation, and increase confidence and motivation in young people, the council's Every Child a Musician programme offers every 10-year-old the use of a free musical instrument and lessons for two years, with take up rates of over 90 per cent. The initiatives are part of Newham's wider approach to building personal and community resilience, ensuring all children in one of the poorest boroughs in the country get a chance to build skills to equip them later in life.