Official responsible for 250 North schools insist she’s no ‘faceless bureaucrat’

Official responsible for 250 North schools insist she's no 'faceless bureaucrat'

The official responsible for more than 250 schools in the North of England has hit out at claims she is a “faceless” bureaucrat. Former head teacher Janet Renou plays a vital role in the education system as Regional Schools Commissioner for the North of England, because she is responsible for helping academies improve and encouraging new academies to open. Her job includes identifying traditional council schools which are failing and encouraging existing academy trusts to take them over. But along with other regional schools commissioners, she has been described as a “faceless” bureaucrat – and many MPs say the system is flawed. Before the introduction of academies, local councils oversaw local schools – and parents knew who to contact if they have a problem. Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, complained in September that he had never met Ms Renou and didn’t even know her name. And Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of school inspection service Ofsted, warned earlier in the year that parents cannot “really identify with faceless regional schools commissioners”. But Ms Renou came out fighting when she had a chance to put her side of the story to a Committee, which includes Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell and Gateshead MP Ian Mearns. Asked about Coun Forbes’ statement, she said: “I am disappointed about that comment because I have met with officials in Newcastle County Council and I am working with them. “I am also involved in the post-16 area-based review that is going on in the region, so working quite closely with the people in Newcastle and with the director of children’s services, as we have already explained, meeting with them to talk through the issues in the region. I have been in phone contact as well.”
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Nick Forbes Ms McKinnell said parents felt “frustrated” because they no longer knew who was responsible for their child’s school, saying: “Previously they went to the local authority if they had an issue and it was a very direct line of democratic accountability they would feel.” But Ms Renou hit back, telling the two North East MPs: “Can I add something, Catherine? Something that I found very useful is working with my MPs in the region because they bring the information. “I have met a lot of my MPs, apart from, yes, Catherine and Ian.” She also insisted she had been in contact with parents who had concerns about schools, as complaints made to the Department for Education were sometimes referred to her. “I have very recently just been in correspondence with five parents who have gone through that process and have not had the answers that they want. “I have been able to work with the trust and get the answers back to those parents.” Read More Rip-off half term? We investigate how parents are being bled dry by school holiday prices She is responsible for making decisions about academies and free schools in Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Cumbria, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees. Figures earlier this year showed there were 116…

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