NGA signs joint letter on Education and Adoption Bill

14/12/2015

The National Governors’ Association is a signatory of a joint letter published today by The Telegraph warning about the impact that the Education and Adoption Bill 2015 will have on the ability of parents and governors to have a say on the future of their schools.

The letter states that “In its current form, the Education and Adoption Bill going through Parliament will deny parents, governors and some communities a say in the future of their school. If passed, it will force schools that Ofsted judges to have serious weaknesses, or are in special measures, to become academies. Neither legal challenge, nor objections from the community served by the school, will be permitted. Nobody with an interest in the school will even be allowed access to information about the sponsor.”

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of National Governors’ Association, said:

"The government is right to want to transform schools which are struggling; however we have tried and tested ways of improving schools. Schools in England are already held to account in a number of ways, and adding yet another system of rigid accountability is unnecessary. If the Government believes that the schools inspectorate Ofsted is not identifying all schools in need of improvement, then Ofsted requires reform. This legislation ignores less bureaucratic and cheaper alternatives to academy conversion, such as the use of Interim Executive Boards, and in some cases the proposals will straightjacket the Secretary of State into converting a school into an academy when this may not be the best way of improving teaching and learning in that school at that time.  NGA is concerned that if we do not have enough good headteachers and teachers, all schools – whatever their legal structure - will struggle to offer pupils the education they deserve."

The full letter, published today in The Telegraph:

SIR – In its current form, the Education and Adoption Bill going through Parliament will deny parents, governors and some communities a say in the future of their school. If passed, it will force schools that Ofsted judges to have serious weaknesses, or are in special measures, to become academies. Neither legal challenge, nor objections from the community served by the school, will be permitted. Nobody with an interest in the school will even be allowed access to information about the sponsorWhen a school is struggling, action must be taken. However, giving the decision-making power for the whole country to one of eight regional schools commissioners will not help.

When it comes to improving schools the priority must be the children, but it is wrong to think that every school will be able to convert immediately to academy status, especially at a time of stretched budgets, teachers already working to capacity and a shortage of sponsors. We support the ambition for high standards of education for all, but we must achieve this in the way that makes the most difference for pupils.

Paul Barber
Director, Catholic Education Service

Christine Blower
General Secretary, National Union of Teachers

Dr Mary Bousted
General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Tony Draper
National President, National Association of Head Teachers

Emma Knights
Chief Executive, National Governors' Association

Dave Prentis
General Secretary, Unison

Henry Stewart
Co-founder, Local Schools Network

Lord Storey
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson, House of Lords

Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Shadow Education Minister (Labour), House of Lords

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: i.e. 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: a new category defined by progress and attainment data (the government is currently consulting on the definition)
  • Where a school has been rated inadequate by Ofsted and is therefore subject to an Academy Order, there will be:
  • No requirement to consult on conversion to academy status
  • A requirement on the governing body and local authority to take all reasonable steps to facilitate the conversion
  • 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.

The intervention powers of the Secretary of State would in practice be exercised by the eight Regional Schools Commissioners who are civil servants appointed by the Department for Education. 

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