On Wednesday (11 May), the government’s Schools Bill began its Parliamentary passage in the House of Lords. The bill will go to a second reading on 23 May. Most of the bill’s contents do not come as a surprise as they reflect previous announcements, and the direction of travel set out in the schools white paper. Nonetheless, if the bill is passed by parliament as expected, it will bring significant changes to the sector.
NGA has produced an information sheet to provide an overview of the measures set out in the Schools Bill.
Emma Knights, chief executive at the National Governance Association said:
“The schools white paper in March confirmed that the Government not only aims to move to a fully trust based school system but that there would be reforms to bring in a single regulatory approach rather than the current messy mixture of regulation, guidance such as the Academy Trust Handbook and funding agreements. Although this could currently be viewed as a tidying up of a existing expectations it does also give the department more powers to intervene where necessary.
The focus on trust standards within the Schools Bill was therefore fairly inevitable for a system which has been centralising power and oversight since the Academies Act 2010. Multi academy trusts play a huge role in the lives of so many children and young people, that is only set to increase as the department moves forward with its vision for a fully trust based system. Schools are essential pillars of the community, and the responsibility MATs carry in running them make them a crucial public service, funded by large amounts of public money which does require accountability and transparency. This also means the possibility of meaningful intervention if things go wrong.
While the DfE has long held a role in setting the expectations and responsibilities of governing boards, any new powers on setting the standards and responsibilities of boards needs to be used sparingly and in the spirit of providing meaningful support and direction for volunteers who already do so much to so little applause.
We are deeply concerned about the potential for local authorities and the department to bypass the legal decision makers in enforcing academy orders on schools without the agreement of the schools themselves. The decision of when to join a MAT and who to join with must remain with the governing body—any deviation from this needs to be avoided for the government to avoid the similar mistakes it made in 2016 when it last attempted to remove the say of boards.”