Council appoints new Cabinet Member for Education
The council has announced the creation of a new Cabinet position for Education as it continues to redefine its role in response to national changes in this area.
Cllr Steve Harrod will join the Cabinet in the new position, to focus solely on the council’s work with schools and other partners to improve educational outcomes for children and ensure a good education is provided for all children in Oxfordshire.
Current Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families Melinda Tilley will remain in the Cabinet as Member for Children and Family Services, continuing to oversee the key areas of children’s social care and safeguarding.
Changing landscape in education
The landscape in education continues to shift very quickly and the changing roles and responsibilities of local councils have emerged as a key area of national debate. In Oxfordshire, around 80 per cent of secondary schools and 30 per cent of primary schools are now academies, and therefore independent of council control. The emergence of Free Schools will also become an increasingly influential factor in the future direction of education in Oxfordshire.
Despite this, the county council retains responsibilities for the educational outcome of all children in Oxfordshire – regardless of the type of state-funded school they attend, and must continue to work with all schools to drive improvements and plan for the future provision of school places.
Council Leader Ian Hudspeth said: “We may not be the provider of education we once were, but there is clearly an important, emerging role for the county council to be the champion of children and families, and to provide both challenge and support to all schools, especially where children are not receiving the good standard of education they deserve.
“Likewise the council now receives very little funding for specific school improvement work, but still retains a statutory responsibility for educational outcomes. We need a renewed focus on what this means in practical terms, and how we are to go about fulfilling that role in such a rapidly changing environment.
He added: “I have come to the view that to take this work forward requires a dedicated role, and have therefore reorganised responsibilities within the Cabinet accordingly. I’m delighted to welcome Cllr Harrod into the Cabinet and would also like to pay tribute to the recent work of Cllr Tilley, who has overseen some significant achievements in improving educational outcomes in Oxfordshire. The separation of responsibilities for education from other children’s services will now enable Cllr Tilley to devote more of her time to the crucial areas of children’s social care and child safeguarding.”
Championing children and families
Cllr Harrod said: “I’m really looking forward to taking on this new role at what is a very exciting and challenging time in education, both nationally and locally. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and will be bringing a very open mind to what works best here in Oxfordshire. However, I’m happy to take as my starting point, the need to champion the needs of children and their families at all times.”
He added: “Children’s education is perhaps the most essential requirement for the future success of society, and is therefore something we all have a stake in. I’m very excited to begin working with the many extremely dedicated and talented people engaged in improving the lives of Oxfordshire children. I hope to further develop the council’s relationship with all state-funded schools, academy chains and other partners.”
Cllr Harrod has worked for 35 years as an industrial market researcher, and hopes to bring some of this experience to bear in his new role.
He said: “While I don’t have a background as an educationalist, in my professional life I’m used to coming into a completely new market and having to gain a rapid grasp of the key issues, who to talk to and how to draw out solutions. To my mind that’s the sort of environment we’re currently grappling with in education, so I believe this sort of experience should hold me in good stead.”
Cllr Harrod was born in neighbouring Buckinghamshire, and lived for many years in Kenya, Rhodesia and South Africa before returning with his family to the UK in 1999. He was elected to the county council via a by-election in 2014, and represents the Chalgrove and Watlington division. He has also been a district councillor since 2011 and a parish councillor since 2005.