The regime for inspecting standards in English schools has come under fire in a report from the National Audit Office.
The report criticises the Department for Education (DfE) for failing to tackle underperformance in maintained schools and academies, saying the current system does not provide value for money.
It also found that despite improvements in educational performance, too many children still attend underperforming schools.
The watchdog also criticised the DfE for not understanding enough about school-level governance. It said this meant the department couldn't identify the risks properly and relied too heavily on external bodies to maintain standards.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: ‘The Department for Education’s system for overseeing schools is still developing. The Department has been clear about the need for schools to improve and nationally education performance has done so. ‘But there are significant gaps in the Department’s understanding of what works, and the information it has about some important aspects of school performance is limited.’
Responding to the report, the Local Government Association (LGA) should years of giving schools greater freedoms has made it harder for councils to tackle poor performance.
Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Councils want to intervene more quickly, but decades of giving schools 'greater freedom' and 'protecting' them from council interference means that local authorities now have very indirect and bureaucratic ways to tackle poor performance and improve schools. Ironically, the Government and academy chains have more direct power than councils to quickly turn around underperforming schools.
‘However, councils also need to realise that intervention is a use it or lose it power and we acknowledge that in some areas there is more to be done.’