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On Monday 20 January 2014, the government’s response to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into ‘School Partnerships and Cooperation’ was published.
The inquiry looked at the differing forms of school partnership and cooperation and whether they have particular advantages/disadvantages reported last November and made a number of recommendations.
In particular, the Committee recommended that the government extends its primary chain grant to schools forming local authority federations. The NGA welcomed this recommendation as our research demonstrates that federation is an attractive option for many schools. There is substantial evidence that federation can bring significant benefits to schools including: improvement in attainment, staffing provision, wider curriculum opportunities and cost benefits.
NGA is disappointed, therefore, that the government has rejected the recommendation to extend the primary chain grant to federations. While we acknowledge that it is government policy is to encourage all schools to adopt academy status, there needs to be recognition that many schools, particularly, but not exclusively, small primary schools are not yet in a position to do this. Furthermore, many of the advantages conferred by multi-academy status for small schools are available to local authority maintained federations, without the additional back office work of running the business of an academy.
Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association said ‘It is extremely disappointing that the Department for Education continues to believe that whether a school is an academy is more important than joining a formal partnership, called a federation, governed by a single board. Federation – irrespective of whether an academy federation or a local authority maintained federation - brings with it advantages for pupils. Ofsted reported on this over two years ago in a report called Leadership of more than one school and more recently the Select Committee encouraged federations, but ministers see fit to ignore experience on this issue. It is very short-sighted of the Secretary of State not to be actively encouraging primary schools – 90% of which remain local authority maintained - to work together and formalise these arrangements by federating.’
In response to the Committee’s other recommendations the government has said that it will clarify the role of local authorities in relation to school improvement – as part of its consultation on the Education Services Grant (expected soon), as well as issuing revised statutory guidance on Schools Causing Concern. These will clearly be of interest to governors and NGA will report as soon as further details are published.
NGA’s written evidence to the Committee can be viewed here.
Education Select Committee website
The Guardian: Education in Brief