Compulsory academisation - February 2018
What is the context? The government has moved away from its proposal, outlined in the 2016 white paper Educational Excellence Everywhere, to require all schools to become academies by 2022. However, compulsory academisation still applies to maintained schools judged inadequate by Ofsted. In this situation, the Regional Schools Commissioner has a legal duty to issue an academy order requiring a school to become a sponsored academy.
ASCL position: ASCL believes that, unless exceptional circumstances apply, schools should not be subject to compulsory academisation. We also ask for a streamlining and reduction of bureaucratic burdens on academy trusts related to both conversion and financial reporting, and propose that the cost of academisation should be borne by the Treasury and not taken from the education budget.
Why are we saying it? We believe that, for many schools, becoming an academy and joining a multi-academy trust is a positive step, enabling them to both give and receive support. We also applaud the government’s desire to ensure that struggling schools are supported to improve rapidly and sustainably.
However, we do not believe that becoming a sponsored academy should be the only option available to schools in this position. There is, as yet, no evidence to suggest that this is the best way to enable schools to improve. Furthermore, the lack of suitable sponsors in some areas can mean the academy brokerage process can take many months, leaving schools in limbo and lacking the support the need.
Sponsored academisation should therefore be one option available to underperforming schools, but this should be considered alongside a range of other ways in which the school could be supported. The school itself should be meaningfully consulted about the best way forward.
In addition, we call on the government to recognise the cost and time associated with the conversion process, and to ensure schools are adequately supported in undertaking this process.
Ensuring all schools can join strong, sustainable multi-academy trusts (MATs) - February 2018
What is the context? Some schools that wish to, or are required to, join a multi-academy trust (MAT) can find it difficult to find a trust which will accept them. This could be due to a number of reasons, including educational under-performance, financial issues, size, legal and/or commercial issues, and location.
This is particularly problematic for schools that are issued with an academy order after being judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted. These schools often end up ‘left in limbo’ while a suitable MAT for them is identified – sometimes for a considerable period of time.
ASCL position: ASCL believes that all schools, whatever their circumstances, should be able to join a MAT that can support them if they so wish.
We encourage the government to consider the following solutions to help ensure even schools considered ‘unattractive’ for a variety of reasons are able to benefit from joining a strong MAT:
Ensure that MATs are effectively supported, both financially and otherwise, to take on and improve challenging schools.
Recognise that immediately issuing an academy order might not always be the best solution for a school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and make alternative solutions available to help the school to improve, such brokering support for them from another school or teaching school alliance, or permitting them to enter into a service-level agreement with a MAT.
Commission, fund and share research into MATs and federations which successfully support ‘unattractive’ schools, and how they achieve this.
Further develop the new accountability framework for MATs to take more sophisticated account of the impact of ‘unattractive’ schools on a trust’s performance.
Why are we saying it? It is imperative that schools, particularly those that are struggling, are supported and encouraged to provide the best possible education to the children and young people they serve. It is also essential that MATs are given the help they need to develop strong, sustainable support systems, and that they never find themselves in the position of taking on schools which they are not confident they can adequately support.
Schools in special measures - February 2017
ASCL is concerned that schools could become 'stuck in special measures' if they are subject to an academy order which is unfilled for some time, eg for financial reasons.
We urge Ofsted to maintain timely, supported monitoring of all schools in special measures.
Academisation - April 2016
ASCL disagrees with the policy of compulsory academisation as outlined in the white paper. We ask for a streamlining and reduction of bureaucratic burdens on academy trusts related to both conversion and financial reporting, and propose that the cost of academisation should be borne by the Treasury and not taken from the education budget.
Mandatory reporting of child abuse – April 2015
We have previously not supported mandatory reporting. However in the light of cross party views and the NSPCC shift we are currently reviewing our position.
Mandatory reporting – June 2014
ASCL maintains its current position
School and colleges take very seriously their role in deterring, preventing and detecting the abuse of children and young people.
Any new legislation should be evidence-based.
ASCL has yet to see evidence that mandatory reporting backed up by criminal sanctions will protect children and young people.
ASCL is also concerned about unintended consequences, for instance, if discretion is removed, the resulting weight of unmoderated reporting will make it more difficult for those with the responsibility for investigating allegations to identify genuine cases of abuse.
If it is decided to introduce mandatory reporting ASCL takes the view that it should be strictly limited.
Timings of the school day – June 2014
Schools and colleges already have the freedom, subject to consultation, to determine the length of their school day. ASCL maintains that schools should be left to decide how best to structure their day in accordance with local circumstances and in light of the educational needs of young people.