The Education and Adoption Bill is a major piece of education legislation in this session of parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent before the end of the calendar year.
The Bill, when passed, will strengthen the Government’s intervention powers in maintained schools by fulfilling two manifesto commitments:
- require ‘coasting’ schools to accept new leadership backed by expert sponsors or high-performing neighbouring schools — unless they can demonstrate they have a plan to improve rapidly;
- turn every failing school into an academy.
Our guide to The Education and Adoption Bill 2015-16 below explains the Bill and which clauses deal with schools causing concern (clauses 1-12).
Eligibility for intervention (clauses 1-3)
These sections make changes to the current ‘ground rules’ for when the Government can intervene in maintained schools that are causing concern.
Clause 1 introduces a new category of school — a ‘coasting’ school — which will be defined by regulations made by the Secretary of State. A coasting school will be defined using pupil performance data from the previous three years and based on where the school is in relation to the relevant floor standard and the assessed progress level made by pupils. View our previous blog, ‘Coasting schools finally defined as…’ for more details on the definition.
The decision to declare that a school is coasting will be taken by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) on behalf of the Secretary of State. It is possible that an RSC might not declare a school to be coasting, although it meets the definition as set out in regulations, due to other mitigating circumstances.
Clause 2 rewrites the law on giving performance standards and safety warning notices, commonly known as “warning notices” found in s.60 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. The Secretary of State will be able to issue a warning notice, although in practice this will be done by the RSC on her behalf. The fixed-length compliance period of 15 working days, within which a maintained school’s governing body has to take the actions specified in the warning notice, is abolished.
In future, the compliance period will be in the warning notice. The appeal to Ofsted is abolished, and there will be no appeal other than through judicial review of the lengthy parliamentary Ombudsman process. Clause 3 abolishes the fixed-length compliance period for the rarely used teachers’ pay and conditions warning notice under s.60A of the 2006 Act.
Intervention powers (clauses 4 – 6)
These clauses make changes to the powers of the Secretary of State and Local Authority (LA) to intervene in a school once it becomes eligible (i.e is classed as a school causing concern).
Clause 4 gives a new power to the Secretary of State, to be exercised by the RSC, to require a maintained school to enter into “arrangements” with another school to bring in leadership support, or a school support and improvement organisation.
Clause 5 allows the Secretary of State to direct a local authority as to who the members of an LA-appointed Interim Executive Board (IEB) should be, and make other arrangements for the running of the IEB.
Clause 6 deals with the interaction between the intervention powers of the local authority and the Secretary of State. The requirement is placed on both the Secretary of State and local authority to inform each other about their actions and also to restrict the local authority’s intervention powers once the Secretary of State has decided to act. The Secretary of State can also take over responsibility for an LA-appointed IEB.
Conversion into academies (clauses 7-12)
These clauses give additional duties and powers to the Secretary of State to assist with the conversion of a maintained school that is eligible for intervention into an academy.
Clause 7 places a duty on the Secretary of State to issue an academy order (which is an order that commences the conversion process) for any maintained school found by Ofsted to be inadequate.
Clause 8 relieves the duty of consultation prior to conversion for any school which is eligible for intervention because it is coasting or has not complied with a warning notice, or an academy order has been made because Ofsted has found the school to be inadequate. However, in the case of a maintained school with a foundation, which will be mainly church schools, there will be consultation with the foundation about the academy sponsor under clause 9.
Clause 10 places a duty on the local authority and the existing school governing body to facilitate the conversion where the school is eligible for intervention or has been found by Ofsted to be inadequate.
In addition, the Secretary of State gains the power of direction under clause 11, which will require the LA and governing body to take specified steps within time limits should the duty in clause 10 be insufficient.
Finally, the Secretary of State gets a specific power to revoke an academy order for a school eligible for intervention or because it has an inadequate Ofsted judgment. This can be used where, for example, it is decided that the school should close rather than be converted into an academy.
What does the Education and Adoption Bill mean for your school?
When this Bill passes, Governments will have more power to intervene if your school is classed as ‘causing concern’. The key points to remember are that governments will require ‘coasting schools’ to accept new leadership backed by expert sponsors or high performing neighbouring schools and that the government will turn every failing school into an academy.
For more information on The Education and Adoption Bill or any other matters education matters, please contact our Employment Law & HR team on 0161 475 7676.