Education Bill has been dropped, where does this leave schools?
Tim Wrigley considers the future for schools MATs and governing bodies.
The proposed Education Act has formally been dropped by the Secretary of State in a written statement to Parliament. This is not wholly surprising given the backlash to the ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ white paper, the major U Turn by dropping the requirement for 100% academisation, and the changes in the Government's cabinet and ministerial teams. What does this mean for state schools sector?
Not all schools will be academies.
However, academies are still the DFE preferred model and failing schools will still be forced into the academy system. The academy programme is still the place for state sector school improvement and driving cooperation and development between schools. It is not impossible to collaborate in the maintained sector, but proper integration whether that is driven by educational aspirations or financial concerns is much easier in the academy system.
There appears to be no plan to introduce the formal triggers of forcing conversions where:
- local authorities are underperforming;
- the local authority no longer has capacity to maintain its schools effectively;
The two regulatory regimes will continue. This will inevitably involve more costs for DFE, LAs and the ultimately the tax payer than a single system.
What should schools do now?
There is still no way back from academy to the maintained sector, so academies choices are stay as you are or potentially look for further integration or movement in the academy programme. The need for more sponsors and financial drivers haven't changed so there will still be a lot of rebrokering in the system.
Maintained schools should still have an agenda item to keep abreast of the programme changes and decide what is best for them. There is no one size fits all solution. It depends on your school in your area. The government seems to have acknowledged that now. Perhaps the minister would get more credit if she said it.
Dropping the proposals to impose additional legal duties on local authorities to facilitate conversions means the anticipated fast tracking of projects and removal of certain possible obstacles in the academy conversion process may be lost. However, it has to be said that the DFE and RSCs have been taking a more hands on and robust approach on processes in recent months, which is having an impact in some areas so there is some truth in the rhetoric that they do not necessarily need legislation to achieve their aims.
The future for MATs
The smart money says MATs will continue to grow to achieve sustainable and successful operating models.
It also seems likely that MAT governance will move further away from too much involvement from headteachers and other executive positions towards a traditional charity model where all trustees act in a voluntary capacity to oversee and hold the executive team to account.
The future for governing bodies
Understandably, there has been a lot of focus on academy governance in recent years. As the two regimes will exist for the foreseeable future it seems likely that there will be an increased focus on the structures and governance in maintained schools. We would expect the two systems to be brought closer together with more separation of governors and employees, a clearer role for parents, and Governing Bodies with more focus on the skills and experience needed in the current system (e.g. finance, health and safety etc.)
All schools need to be planning now for the tight financial times ahead. Collaborations, restructuring, and better procurement can all help. Being in a multi academy trust is the most simple structure to achieve the economies most schools are looking for. We are happy to talk about the alternatives and ways of maintained schools collaborating together, but that's a longer topic. Please contact us if you would like to discuss the possibilities.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Tim Wrigley on 0113 244 6100.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors
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