The announcement came in the wake of warnings from councils last month that they face a £600m black hole in budgets – including for school improvement.
Education secretary Justine Greening said in the Department for Education news release that from September 2017 the government will make available:
- a £50m a year fund for local authorities to continue to monitor and commission school improvement for low-performing maintained schools
- a new £140m “strategic school improvement fund” for academies and maintained schools – “aimed at ensuring resources are targeted at the schools most in need of support to drive up standards, use their resources most effectively and deliver more good school places”.
The release added that “while there continues to be a dual system of maintained schools and academies, it is vital that all schools have the resources they need to tackle underperformance”.
Prospect national secretary Philippa Childs said: “We are glad that the government has belatedly recognised the crucial role of local authorities in improving school standards.
“However, we will be seeking further clarification about how this funding will be allocated and whether it will be enough to plug the gaps identified. Likewise we would like more detail of how the £140m strategic school improvement fund will be used.”
Childs acknowledged the changing landscape in which school improvement operates. “Many of our members working in school improvement are still employed by local authorities, but others operate as self-employed consultants or work for private companies who sell their services to schools.
“However, in all cases, their independence from the schools they support is an important principle to ensure objectivity.”
Childs also highlighted recent research by the County Councils Network showing that 68% of academies in England purchase school improvement services from their county council or unitary body.
The DfE news release said that the Education Endowment Foundation – an independent grant-making charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement – has committed to spending a further £20m over the next two years to “scale up and disseminate evidence-based programmes and approaches”.