Parents to trigger school changes

Parents in England might be able to trigger council intervention in unsatisfactory local schools under new plans announced by Gordon Brown.

Details have yet to be worked out but might involve local authorities surveying parental opinion.

If it were negative, councils would then have to get good schools to help out the weaker ones in federations.

The idea, after a tough week for the prime minister, is a response to Tory plans to let parents set up schools.

Speaking in south London at a federation of two schools under an executive head, Mr Brown said the drive for world class schools in Britain required a more strategic role for government.


"So we will look at how local authorities can improve their knowledge of what parents want and how satisfied they are with their local schools and where there is significant dissatisfaction with the pattern of secondary school provision, and where standards across an area are too low - then the local authority will be required to act.

"This could mean either the creation of a federation of schools, an expansion of good school places or, in some cases, the establishment of entirely new schools."

Mr Brown talked about Britain but in the UK's devolved education systems his proposals would apply only to England.

And the idea is still in the planning stage. The Department for Children, Schools and Families was not able to say how it would operate in practice.

Parents can already invite Ofsted inspections - but only in schools where they have children.

The new idea is that they could require an intervention in other local schools too.

Parental role

Details will be in a white paper due to be published next month which will also include proposals for school "report cards".

These would assign an overall score based on a range of factors such as test results and an assessment of pupils' wellbeing as well as the views of parents and children.

"As (England's Schools Secretary) Ed Balls will set out in his white paper on schools in the next month, the drive for world class schools in Britain will require a more strategic role for government, intervening when schools consistently under-perform, but standing back and allowing teachers and school leaders greater freedom to innovate," Mr Brown said.

There was a role for parents to run schools which is why the government had made it possible.

But most parents did not want the burden of doing that, they wanted to leave it to the professionals.

He did stress there was a need for more collaboration between parents and schools.

So, he promised, by 2010 all secondary schools and two years later all primaries would report online to parents about their children's progress.

The speech comes as the prime minister tries to switch the spotlight from personality to policy following a week of speculation about his leadership.

It has strong echoes of a speech by the former education secretary, Ruth Kelly, in 2005 as she presented a white paper that set out controversial proposals for trust schools.

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, John Dunford, said the parent power proposal was "completely unnecessary".