Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 16:49 UK

Will councils meet the challenge?

Class
Councils already work closely with struggling schools
Many of the schools with less than 30% of pupils meeting the government's GCSE benchmark will have been facing significant challenges for some time.

They will have been working with specialist teams from their local councils, as well as Ofsted inspectors, in an attempt to make progress.

Moreover, many of the local authorities with a large number of struggling schools will be part way through rebuilding many of them through the Building Schools for the Future programme.

And many other schools will already be on their way to becoming academies - the state funded but privately run school model which the government believes is the best answer to the problem of low achievement.

'Massive investment'

In Bristol, three of the 10 schools that failed to reach the 30% target are already seeking academy status.

A Bristol City Council spokeswoman said the extra government money would assist what it was already doing with a number of schools in the city to raise achievement.

"This process is well underway and we will continue to support all the schools in the city to improve standards.

"We have seen [an increase of] 5.6% between 2004 and 2007 (including English and maths) and are expecting significant improvement this year as a result of the work done in recent years."

In Manchester, where 13 of the city council's schools failed to meet the benchmark, deputy director of children's services John Edwards said he was working closely with head teachers and staff in schools to drive up standards.

"We are also investing massively in our schools with a 500m programme of rebuilding and refurbishment through Building Schools for the Future that includes plans for the opening of seven brand new academies linked to key employers in the city."

'School support'

A spokeswoman for councils' umbrella body the Local Government Association (LGA) said every council wanted all their schools to deliver the best education and start in life for children.

"Challenging and supporting schools to improve is a top priority for local authorities.

"This new initiative recognises this is critical and greatly increases its chances of success."

But she added that the LGA was disappointed at the centralist design of the government's plans to bring about improvements.

"Councils need to have the flexibility to implement plans with their schools that suit their local circumstances as one-size-fits-all solutions will clearly not work.

"We would also like to point out that some of these schools are already seeking Academy status."

However, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders John Dunford said if local authorities were to be given responsibility for co-ordinating the turn-around, many of them would have to radically improve their school support mechanisms.

"Local authorities do not have the expertise to provide from their own staff the necessary support for these schools and should commission help from school leaders who have proved successful in similar circumstances elsewhere."




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