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The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 completed its passage through Parliament on Tuesday night and will now become law.
For schools in England, the bill’s provisions will:
Much of the debate on the bill has centred on the issue of consultation, and the NGA was among the many voices, both inside and outside parliament, calling for this aspect of the bill to be altered. Amendments seeking to reinstate a consultation process into the academy conversion process were tabled by opposition politicians in both houses but were defeated.
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Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that, although not precluding those who choose to consult on a planned academy conversion, the bill would end the current “rigid approach that allowed vested interests to prevent sponsors from taking decisive action and to delay the process of transformation”.
In 2010 the NGA lobbied for and was pleased to see the inclusion of the requirement to consult parents, pupils, and staff on the decision to change the status of the school. The selection of an academy sponsor is a critical strategic decision and NGA is of the view that, where there is capacity and capability in the governance arrangements, this decision should be subject to consultation and remain with the governing board. NGA is disappointed, therefore, that the bill will remove requirements for consultation and rights to decide on the identity of an academy sponsor.
The government intend that the powers to intervene in maintained schools will be delegated to the eight Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs). The Education Select Committee’s recent report into the role of RSCs raised several concerns, including around the clarity of the role. For more details, see our news item.
The details of how the bill’s provisions will be implemented will be set out in a new version of the Schools Causing Concern guidance. Drafts of both this guidance and the proposed ‘coasting’ definition were consulted on by the Department for Education last term and the outcome is expected to be published in the near future.
If an LA maintained school is judged by Ofsted to be ‘inadequate’ it will become an academy because the new law will require the education secretary to make an academy order in such cases. The local authority and governing body will have to facilitate the conversion. The SOS may revoke an academy order if another potential approach to improvement is identified or if closure is deemed to be the best solution.
A new performance measure may leave your school open to academy conversion by the SoS if the school is deemed to be ‘coasting’. Where a school meets the criteria for ‘coasting’ it will be for the RSC to determine whether it has a credible plan to improve or whether in her/his opinion intervention is required. If it doesn’t, the RSC may decide that a school: needs additional support and challenge; should be required to enter into specified arrangements; that additional governors or an interim executive board (IEB) are needed; or that the school should become a sponsored academy.
Academies can also be ‘coasting’ and these schools could be handed over to new sponsors. But importantly, academy trusts will have the power to challenge the decision.
The governing boards of foundation schools will have recourse to consultation if the government is seeking to convert its school into an academy.
Interim executive boards (IEBs) the SoS will have the power to issue to directions to local authorities about the membership and terms of appointment of IEBs.
Eligible for intervention is a specific term which means that the DfE or the local authority has the power to intervene in the running of a school because of concerns about the way it is performing.
A school is ‘eligible for intervention’ where:
When a school is ‘eligible for intervention’, either the local authority or regional schools commissioners may utilise one of the following measures:
In general, where the RSC intends to intervene in a school, their powers take precedence over those of the LA.
NGA signs joint letter on Education and Adoption Bill