Council to take back control over schools

school children pic: soil-net

Hackney councillors discussed the future of the borough’s education system on Monday night in advance of control over schools being brought back in-house for the first time in ten years.

The contract with the Learning Trust, an independent body charged with overseeing the running of the area’s schools, will come to an end later this year. The trust will now begin the process of handing back the running of Hackney’s education system to the local authority.

Members of the Children’s and Young People’s Scrutiny Commission discussed details of the plans for the transfer and re-branding of the trust, which will be named the Hackney Learning Trust, and councillors paid tribute to the achievements of the non-profit organisation at a town hall meeting on Monday January 16.

Labour Councillor Rita Krishna, Cabinet member for Children’s services, assured members that the system would continue to operate smoothly and according to the Learning Trust’s current guidelines. She told the meeting that no jobs would be lost.

The meeting heard that costs of the transition have been kept to a minimum, and telephone numbers and email addresses will not be changed for convenience to the public.

The handover will officially commence on August 1. In a joint statement made by Mayor Jules Pipe and Chair of The Learning Trust Richard Hardie, both guaranteed the transition would be as ‘seamless’ as possible.

The independent body took over Hackney Council’s educational role in 2002 after an Ofsted report deemed that the council was failing in its capacity as local education authority. Under the trust’s guidance, secondary and primary education steadily improved, with the number of pupils attaining GCSEs grades at A* to C more than doubling from 31 per cent in 2002 to 74 per cent in 2011, making it one of the most improved boroughs in the country over that time period.

Given the success of the Learning Trust over the years, members of the Commission were anxious for education standards to continue improving.

Lib Dem Councillor Abraham Jacobson, said: “The transfer is a concern. The Learning Trust were fixers, but the contract was never forever and now it’s time for Hackney Council to slowly take it back in house.”

Outside of the meeting, others expressed concern that education standards may diminish over the next few years due to extraneous factors. The possibility of more schools opting to become Free Schools and Academies, outside of the local education authorities control, has given rise to fears of a depleted budget.

Mark Lushington, spokesperson for National Union of Teachers said: “The Learning Trust is on a slimming diet that is about to vanish in a puff a smoke, and not because Hackney council will take over, but the problem lies in the rise in academies.”

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