UK parents may have more power at public schools

Under a new set of public service reform plans, parents in the UK will have more power and will be able to call in a team of specialists to boost the performance of failing schools or teachers.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is leading the effort. The improvement team will have the power to order better collaboration between schools, set out school improvement plans, and remove failing teachers. The team would be able to get involved in academies, free schools, and community schools.

Until now, Miliband has been fairly quiet about school reform, but he plans to conduct “a new culture of people powered public services”. According to political editor at The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Miliband is focusing on four reforms.

A stimulus that allows parents to actively work at raising school standards

Access for public services users to control their own personal information, including health and school record.

Allowing local councils three or five year budgets

A right for public service users,  to link up with other users through social networks to learn from each other. He also wants to let users track their case in the same way a customer tracks the shipment of an online order.

Miliband’s plans to offer parents a mechanism to force improvements in their child’s school is aimed at giving a degree of control over improvements in public services to the people receiving them.

There is no specification on the number of parents needed to start the improvement team, but Miliband acknowledges it would be “substantial”. In schools that Ofsted has already classified as inadequate, the difficulty would be less.

Miliband plans to argue that the government’s attempt to run schools from Whitehall is not working, and schools “have been left to fail without intervention” and that “parents should not have to wait” for others to intervene if they have a concern, “whether it is a free school, academy or local authority school. In all schools there should be a parent call-in”.

Remedial action could include drawing up a school standards plan focused on areas of concern; brokering collaboration with another school; bringing in outside teaching and leadership expertise; and changing staff or the school’s leadership.

Miliband’s proposal is a wider review of a similar accountability structure of schools in the aftermath of the reforms introduced by education secretary Michael Gove. Former education secretary David Blunkett is overseeing the review, and is reporting to Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary.

Blunkett told the Guardian the current education system was chaotic, but he stressed he did not think the improvement role should be led by local authorities, but by some new sub-regional body, modelled on the success of the London Schools Challenge.