Schools chief must answer to Metro Mayor, says Steve Rotheram

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The North of England schools chief should be accountable to the new Liverpool City-Region Metro Mayor to raise standards for local pupils and build the “high-skill, high wage and high aspiration economy of the future”, Steve Rotheram will say today (Wednesday) during a Westminster debate on education in Merseyside.

The Walton MP and Labour’s mayoral candidate will call on the Government to reinstate local accountability by making the Regional Schools Commissioner answerable to the Metro Mayor.

Rotheram will say that greater local accountability in the education system would allow him to develop a City-Region education strategy as Mayor. The scheme would be the ‘building block’ for economic success in the region, designed to meet the needs of young people across Merseyside and Halton.

At present, eight regional leaders cover England and report only to the Secretary of State for Education in Westminster on their work to tackle underperforming schools and advise on proposals for new free schools. Rotheram will say they are unable to adequately consider the needs of local schools in the Liverpool City-Region. He will also criticise Theresa May’s decision to reinstate grammar schools.

In the debate, Mr. Rotheram will say:

“The problem in Merseyside is not the level of attainment of the top 20% – it’s the level of attainment of the rest. We need an education system that lifts the attainment of all, not just the most gifted and talented. That is why I am calling for the return of an element of local accountability.

“The Minister should make the Regional Schools Commissioner accountable to the Metro Mayor. I truly believe that if the Government is serious about devolution then they need to apply to education the same approach they are applying to industrial strategy.

“Indeed not to do so would make contradictory nonsense of the government’s devolution agenda because education provides the very building blocks for achieving the economic success we so desperately need.

“It will also afford the incoming Metro Mayor the opportunity of creating a City Region education strategy that can work collaboratively to be the catalyst for sharing best practice.”

Speaking about the announcement, the MP added:

“The Tories have systematically stripped away the role of local councils in planning and managing education provision for their areas, instead creating a centralised system run and funded from Whitehall, which results in fragmentation at grassroots level. The eight commissioners across England are the ‘local’ agents of the Education Secretary, but because they cover such vast areas they cannot possibly take account of local needs and circumstances.

“I believe in a comprehensive system of education and am personally opposed to Tory education policies, particularly the forced academisation of schools and the reintroduction of the Grammar school system, so the changes I am calling for would improve local accountability if the Regional Schools Commissioner reported to the Metro Mayor.

“Sooner or later it must occur to someone in Westminster that the Tory plan of enforced academisation and centralisation in education flies in the face of the devolution agenda they are purportedly pursuing in the City Regions.

“Failing to give the Metro Mayor any responsibility for pre-16 education effectively ties one hand behind the back of the Metro Mayor. This is because ensuring young people receive the education and opportunities they need is key to building the high-skill, high wage and high aspiration economy of the future.”

Agree with Steve on education?

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