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The Education and Adoption Bill was laid before Parliament today, which will mean new powers for Government intervention in schools.
The main provisions of the Bill are that:
· Maintained schools rated inadequate by Ofsted will be subject to an Academy Order. That is, the mechanism which enables a maintained school to be converted to an academy, as opposed to the current position where the Secretary of State can issue such an order, but doesn’t have to;
· Powers of intervention – the Secretary of State, as well as local authorities, will have the power to issue warning notices to maintained schools and to determine the form of intervention: ie. to require the governing body to enter into arrangements; to appoint additional governors; to suspend the delegated authority for the school’s budget; and/or to appoint an Interim Executive Board (IEB) to replace a failing governing body. Currently the Secretary of State only has powers to direct a local authority to issue a warning notice.
· The Secretary of State will have the power to determine the membership of an IEB even if a local authority had issued the warning notice.
· A warning notice will also apply to coasting schools; although as yet there is no definition of ‘coasting’ which will be defined in regulations after a summer consultation.
o No requirement to consult on conversion to academy status
o A requirement on the governing body and local authority to take all reasonable steps to facilitate the conversion
o Power for the Secretary of State to direct a governing body and/or a local authority to take specific actions to facilitate the conversion process.
Launching the Bill, the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, said: “Today’s landmark bill will allow the best education experts to intervene in poor schools from the first day we spot failure. It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.”
The Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, said it was, “very depressing to see the government’s partisan and divisive education policy continuing into this parliament.” He added, “These measures do not meet the challenges we face in education, such as preventing educational inequality setting in during the early years and ensuring high-quality teachers are attracted into poorly performing areas.”
The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that the new measures would cover approximately 1,000 schools, but given the lack of detail this is very much an estimate. As of 31 March 2015 there were 447 schools rated ‘inadequate’ and 3,299 ‘Requiring improvement’ at their most recent Ofsted inspection, although some of those will already be academies. NGA looks forward to being involved in the consultation on the definition of coasting schools.
NGA agrees with the House of Commons Education Select Committee that there is no definitive evidence that any one school structure is better than another in bringing about school improvement.
While The Daily Mail has reported that the new measures will 'drive up standards' there has also been a number of objections raised in light of today’s announcement, particularly about the removal of consultation from parents, and subsequently SchoolsWeek also covered the over-ruling of governing bodies’ decisions.
You can read the Bill here The Bill is expected to have its second reading in the House of Commons at a date yet to be announced but no doubt at that point the Secretary of State will be challenged to produce the evidence that converting to academy status does improve the education of pupils. The passage of the Bill will be reported on our Parliamentary pages.