Now the political drama is over, can we please have a sensible talk about education?
Schoolsworks has recently become a member of the Confederation of School Trusts, a relatively new sector body for multi-academy trusts. I read the newsletters and journals of this organisation and particularly of their CEO, Leora Cruddas, with great interest. What I like about the emphasis and the messages from the CST is that they are seeking to capitalise on a moment of political certainty (whether or not we like that certainty) to push for some positive decisions to be made regarding our education system. To follow are a few of their key focus areas:
The CST describe what they believe the government's priorities should be as follows:
- Complete the reform journey and create one system: We need this administration to set out their expectation of the end points of the reform journey – all schools in a strong and sustainable trust.
- Strengthen regulation: Create a single regulator by bringing the regulatory functions of the RSC and ESFA together. Make regulatory decisions based on the evidence, and bring forward legislation which allows intervention at Trust-level; not just at school-level, because the Trust is the accountable body.
- Review approaches to improvement: The plethora of government-funded improvement initiatives should be reviewed in light of emerging evidence. The range of initiatives outside of schools’ needs to be stood down at the next comprehensive spending review and consolidated into a strategic commissioning fund. Policy needs to follow the evidence in light of the recent Ofsted report.
- Focus on the regional imbalance in relation to the impact of school reforms: In the next decade the pattern of schooling in England and the growth of trusts cannot be organic. It must be by design, including accelerating the development of trusts of all sizes with the potential to be strong. RSCs will need to develop strategic plans for each region agreed by the government and have strategic commissioning budgets to achieve this.
- Fund schools fairly and sustainably: We now need the government to harden the National Funding Formula and bring forward legislation to implement the NFF alongside a sustainable funding settlement for schools.
Little of this is brand new, and some aspects, for example fair and sustainable funding, have been an ever present issue for us. However, it is the first bullet that particularly strikes me. I have long felt that the education system will stagnate unless there is decisive action with regards to creating one system. We know that all governments since 2016 have fought shy of taking on the challenges of creating a single system, but surely now politically there is the opportunity to do so.
As a footnote, it is interesting that Gavin Williamson has survived the PM’s recent reshuffle of his cabinet. On appointment, he named free schools as one of his top three priorities in government, and a document leaked in August contained a renewed commitment to the academies programme. Let’s hope that this comes with extra money to help successful trusts expand.
Do share your thoughts on whether these points resonate; contact me via email, or through the Schoolsworks Twitter or Facebook accounts.
Chris Seaton, February 2020