Academies: East Riding Council wants powers after Cottingham High School concerns
EAST Riding Council is asking the Government for powers to keep a check on academies that have broken away from local authority control.
Councillors are concerned about the lack of public scrutiny over academies such as Cottingham High School, where the suspended head teacher resigned after problems there.
Concerns about Cottingham, where governors refused to give parents reasons for the suspension and resignation of head Elizabeth Logan, were aired at a council scrutiny committee.
Scrutiny sub-committee chairman Councillor Kerri Harold said: "No one knows what is happening with Cottingham.
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"They are East Riding residents, they are asking questions and we have not got a clue what the answer is.
"We have not been able to go in there."
Concern was also raised about a lack of accountability for results at academies after Goole High School – the lowest performer at GCSE – declined to attend the committee.
Cllr Harold told the children and young people overview and scrutiny sub-committee the Goole academy had refused four requests to attend.
Goole is the only East Riding school performing below the Government's basic "floor target" of 40 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs.
Cllr Harold said: "I appreciate schools can convert to academy status but these children are still East Riding children, regardless of whether it is an academy or not."
Academies including Cottingham and South Hunsley have previously attended for scrutiny of their Ofsted reports but the council has no powers to insist on attendance.
Cllr Harold said: "We do have concerns in the light of the Department for Education's (DfE) latest stance that councils should continue to scrutinise academies.
"They expect us to scrutinise but we have no powers to bring the academies in.
"We should send a strongly- worded letter to the DfE and copy it to our MPs, saying we wish to fulfil what we see as our scrutiny role but we have no powers to do it."
Councillor Josh Newlove said: "My fear is the DfE is powerless as well, I don't know what it can do.
"I don't think it can say to the academies in the East Riding 'Go to the scrutiny committee', it's not in the legislation."
John Killeen, branch secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, fears problem-hit academies could stay under the radar because they do not have to answer to the local authority.
He told the committee: "There is merit in raising the issue of accountability for academies.
"As a local authority, the East Riding is measured on the performance of all the pupils in the East Riding – the DfE does not draw a line between academies and schools.
"If standards drop, the East Riding will be held accountable but the authority is powerless to influence what happens at the academies."
Officials said academies are "almost universally" accepting improvement support from the council.