Maintained schools will continue to only be required to become a sponsored academy as a result of “educational underperformance, if they are judged ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted”, the Department for Education has confirmed to the National Governance Association (NGA).
Following leaks in The Guardian last week, which suggested that an increase of free schools would be announced alongside a ‘fresh push to convert local authority maintained schools to academy status’, NGA sought clarity from the DfE on the claims to ensure there would not be a more directive approach to academisation.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We do not comment on leaks. We will announce further information on our domestic priorities in due course.” However the Department did provide further clarification stating that its policy remains unchanged, and that its ambition is for “every school that wants to benefit from the autonomy and freedom to innovate that academy status offers, and for schools to collaborate through strong academy trusts”.
Confirmation on the governments’ stance on school structures comes as NGA released the results of the School Governance in 2019 survey. Findings of the survey – which took in to account the views of almost 6,000 governors and trustees – indicate that those governing are significantly less interested in school structures when compared to recent years. Just 4.12% of respondents noted ‘school structures e.g. exploring academisation’ as amongst the top five issues facing their school, down from 10.3% in 2018.
While no formal change in policy has been announced, the DfE will continue to encourage maintained schools to explore academisation, noting that “each year hundreds of schools make the positive choice to convert to academy status” and that the process to convert to become an academy is “school-led, with schools’ Local Governing Bodies taking the initiative to apply to their Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC)”.
Sam Henson, Director of Policy at the National Governance Association said: “NGA welcomes this clarification; it is right that the decision to convert to academy status should rest solely with the governing body of a school. Any decision should be taken after full consideration of what academy status entails and with a clear vision as to how the conversion will improve teaching and learning in the school. Our recent survey shows a clear lack of appetite from governing boards for a more forceful approach to academistation.”
To support governors of local authority maintained schools, trustees of single academy trusts and multi academy trusts, and school leaders in England in making the right decision for the next steps of their school or trust, NGA has published three practical papers in partnership with ASCL and Browne Jacobson Education: Taking the Next Steps.