EDUCATION chiefs have defended a plan to place a commissioner over East Lancashire’s free schools.

Yesterday the plan was criticised by both unions in the area, local councillors and Blackburn’s newest free school, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar.

QEGS said the plan would only work if schools remained free to make changes and unions said the scheme was no replacement for councils.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Regional Schools Commissioners will provide important local support and oversight to more than 4,000 academies, while maintaining the freedoms under the programme for successful heads to run their schools as they think best.

“The commissioners will monitor school performance, take decisions on new academies and intervene where academies are struggling. The role will not affect the current responsibilities of councils.

“The whole point of our reforms is to take power away from politicians and bureaucrats, whether local and national, and give it to heads and teachers.

“That’s what this new system does, by asking outstanding leaders in education to take the lead, whether as commissioners or as members of the Head Teacher Boards which support them.”