How Local Authority "control" gave freedom and autonomy to small rural schools

As teenagers move from children to adults the “control” of their parents actually provides something that might be unexpected. It gives teenagers the confidence and support to be able to step out into the world on their own. In fact it gives them freedom. They know that if something goes wrong their parents will help pick the pieces up so this means they can take a few more chances.

A teenager with no such control might appear to have more autonomy but this is not really the case. With no support, nobody to encourage or correct them they run the risk of over-cautiousness or recklessness.

To me the relationship between small schools and their Local Authorities has always been a bit like that. Sure we like to sound off about the LA a bit like a teenager does about their Mum and Dad. We might call them interfering and be annoyed they put some hurdles in our way. We might actually know better at least some of the time but did we really want the LA to go away and leave us on our own? Of course not.

For small schools the LA provided a safety net. When you are running a tiny school with less than 100 pupils (and there are hundreds of these in Suffolk) it does not take much to go wrong for the school to move from a strong position to a weak one. You might only have four teachers so losing two would be half your teaching staff gone.

Such schools are always going to be too small to manage their own finances and deal with issues such as buildings. You can’t hire a School Business Manager for a tiny primary school. By providing these services the LA gave the school freedom to get on with the important things. Teaching and Learning.

You may have noticed I have written this article in the past tense. This is because in Suffolk the LA has already left small schools pretty much on their own due to the massive reduction in staff in the centre - you know the “interfering bureaucrats” that Gove likes to talk about.

Now I will admit that some County staff could at times be annoying but never have I come across County Council staff that are as unhelpful and out of touch as some of the civil servants at the DfE are. Generally the LA staff at least could find our schools on a map...

It’s a bit like someone grabbed us from our parents who we loved to hate and placed us in a children’s home run by officious bureaucrats that know lots of rules but neither care for us or know us as individuals.

So Mr Gove, please can we have Mum and Dad back? We promise we won’t complain about them. Well, not much.

Sometimes you don’t know you had a good thing until it is gone.
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