Schools

29 areas vie for spots on council academy trust pilot

Only a third of councils which applied are likely to be able to join the pilot launching their own trusts

Only a third of councils which applied are likely to be able to join the pilot launching their own trusts

summer schools

Twenty-nine local authorities have applied to launch their own multi-academy trusts – but two-thirds are likely to be turned down.

The government unveiled fresh details of its council-launched academy trust pilot today, designed to bolster academisation – as it revealed the 10,000th school converted this month.

Education secretary James Cleverly said it was “great that we can mark the new school year with a major milestone”, but he wanted to build “even more momentum” behind the Department for Education’s academy drive.

Schools Week revealed plans earlier this year to let some councils launch trusts in areas where few strong ones exist.

It marks a radical departure from the initial academy vision to free schools from council control, though ongoing limits on LA involvement in boards will restrict their day-to-day involvement.

The DfE invited councils to register interest in a “test and learn” pilot earlier this year, and has now confirmed 29 have applied.

It means fewer than one in five of England’s 152 councils responsible for education have expressed interest, however. And only around a third even of those 29 applicants are likely to be approved to launch trusts through the pilot.

Dame Katherine Cowell, the DfE’s north-east regional director, told local schools in a June webinar that the pilot would begin with “maybe around 10 or so projects, initially”.

The DfE slideshow she presented, seen by Schools Week, read: “We plan to start with a small number of projects (up to 10) so that we can test the approach and learn from the first ones.”

The DfE also announced this week it has formed a MAT leadership development expert advisory group, aimed at the development of CEOs as it seeks to build capacity for its all-academy vision.

A spokesperson said: “This will advise the department on the most effective and efficient means of developing CEOs, and will be comprised of individuals with expertise in school and business leadership.”

New DfE powers to force schools with two consecutive “requires improvement” judgements to join multi-academy trusts also take effect in law today, bringing 900 schools in scope. Schools with one RI rating will be offered up to 10 days’ expert advice from another school leader this year too.

The DfE reached the 10,000 milestone after more than 100 schools academised today. More than half of students are now in academies.

Meanwhile Cleverly used the start of term to pick up former education secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s mantle trumpeting attendance, with “all the evidence” showing it is vital for achieving potential.

The DfE revealed schools, trusts, councils and government will have access to “powerful new attendance data visualisation tool” from later this month, helping them with insight and analysis.

It also confirmed a one-to-one attendance mentoring pilot will get underway this term, under a £5 million scheme Schools Week revealed earlier this year.

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