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Education grant cuts would put school improvements at risk, councils warn

Education improvement work in schools could be put at risk by big cuts in Government grants, councils have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says ministers intend to allocate £50 million from next September to cover duties they have received £450 million for in the past.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 English councils, has warned the move could impact negatively on the access for pupils to speech therapy and physiotherapy, as well as good attainment levels.

The grants have previously allowed councils to plan ahead for more school places and run criminal checks before recruiting staff, the LGA said.

Chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, Cllr Richard Watts, said: "89% of council-maintained schools are now rated as either good or outstanding by Ofsted. Only this month, in its annual report, inspectors recognised the increase in school performance overall across the country was a direct result of the number of council-maintained primary schools improving during 2015-16. Cutting councils' school improvement budgets risks the long-term work and planning that has been put in place.

"Councils' track record of helping to improve schools with their local knowledge, expertise and democratic oversight cannot be ignored. With the majority of secondary schools now academies, Ofsted has also found that more work needs to be done to improve these schools, especially in northern parts of the country and in the Midlands.

"Councils are key to unlocking that improvement. Allowing them to intervene early and use their vast experience would help these schools to deliver the high-quality education that all of our children deserve."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh said: "It is absurd that this Government is cutting funding for struggling schools while spending £60 million a year on expanding grammars.

"We should be investing to ensure every child has a chance to succeed, not consigning thousands of pupils to the scrapheap.

"The Government must explain how cutting councils' school improvement budgets is compatible with building a country that works for everyone."

A Department of Education spokesman said: "School funding is at its highest level on record and will be over £40 billion in 2016-17.

"There are now almost 1.8 million more children being taught in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. To suggest that we are taking money away from school improvement is simply incorrect. In addition, this Government has also now set out proposals to end the historic postcode lottery in school funding.

"In the last month, we have also announced a further investment of £190 million to provide more support to under-performing schools and ensure the number of good school places continues to rise."

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