At the end of March, the Government published ambitious plans for education reform in England. The White Paper sets out various proposals, including the aim for all schools to be in a strong multi-academy trust (MAT) by 2030.
Last month the Government published a new policy paper titled ‘Implementing school system reform in 2022/23’, setting out the Government’s immediate plans within the broader context of implementing the White Paper.
Education Investment Areas (EIAs)
In February 2022, the Government identified 55 local authority areas as most in need of support in the education sector. As part of the Government’s ‘levelling-up” agenda, these EIAs will be prioritised in terms of funding, policy changes relating to Ofsted ratings and area-based approaches to commissioning trusts.
In addition, a subset of 24 Priority Education Investment Areas (PEIAs) was identified within the 55 EIAs. You can find the list of EIAs here and the list of PEIAs here.
Currently, any school judged ‘inadequate’ is eligible for intervention from the Secretary of State. Subject to Parliamentary approval, from September, the Secretary of State will have new powers to intervene with any school that receives two consecutive below Good Ofsted ratings. Under these new powers, the Secretary of State can issue:
- in the case of a maintained school, an Academy Order to convert;
- in the case of a single academy trust (SAT), a Termination Warning Notice to join a strong MAT; or
- in the case of an academy within a MAT, assess whether a transfer into a stronger MAT would be appropriate.
The policy paper makes clear that this new power will be exercised across the country, although the primary focus of its use will be in EIAs. The paper also makes clear that this new power gives the Secretary of State the power to act as opposed to a duty. The merits of each case will be considered once a school becomes eligible for intervention.
EIAs will be able to access the Levelling Up Premium for eligible teachers in priority subjects. PEIAs will gain access to a local needs funding pot, estimated at £40million.
Additionally, the Trust Capacity Fund will be increased and prioritised to the new focuses set out in the policy paper. This will include the option to receive more than a single-year grant to assist with the timeframe planning of larger projects.
The trust and school improvement offer will continue with eligible schools and trusts having the ability to receive funded support from a strong MAT or National Leader of Education.
Area-based approach to commissioning trusts
The paper highlights that all local partners will be consulted when establishing the fully trust-led system. In EIAs, quality will be the first focus and strong MATs will be identified which are best placed to take on underperforming schools.
Initial regional planning conversations are expected this term, with each EIA receiving an individual prospectus setting out the key educational priorities for MAT development in that area in early autumn of this year.
A MAT leadership development programme is currently in the works, which will initially be available in PEIAs, available from the academic year 2023/24.
There is also a commitment to work with external providers to deliver a range of events and knowledge-sharing workshops for development opportunities.
Local Authority MATs
The Government is keen to trial run a small number of Local Authority (LA) MATs. Such MATs will be able to establish where too few strong MATs exist and not be limited to EIAs.
The Government are asking LAs who may be interested in taking part in the test and learn approach to register interest in establishing a LA MAT. The deadline is the end of this month and a small number will be chosen nationally.
Fully trust led systems in a local area
To gather pace in areas to implement a fully trust-led system, subject to Parliamentary approval, the Secretary of State will receive a new power to bring all of an LA’s maintained schools into the academy system, where requested by the LA.
LAs and diocesan authorities will be invited to express interest in assisting with the conversion of maintained schools at pace in any local area. The paper commits the Government to ensure financial support for the costs associated with the exceptional scale of conversion of maintained schools.