The government has today published an agreement governing the way churches and the Department for Education (DfE) will work in the new academy landscape.
As announced last month in the white paper, the department committed to setting out new rules as the country moves towards an all-academy system by 2022.
The memorandums of understanding (MOU) set out how Catholic and Church of England schools, and their dioceses, will work with their regional school commissioners and the government.
The MOUs state that the Church will have a final say on whether schools convert to academy status.
The Catholic Education Service agreement says: “The DfE respects the statutory right and requirement for Diocesan and Trustee consent, to allow a Catholic school to become an academy.”
And with the Church of England, states: “The department respects the statutory right and requirement for the consent of various diocesan bodies to allow a church school to become an academy.”
The main difference between the two documents regards decisions about sponsorship.
Catholic schools will have more control over who takes over any schools found to be underperforming.
The MOU says the Diocese’s “preferred sponsorship arrangements” will be accepted if the Secretary of State is satisfied the sponsorship package, which includes any additional support provided or brokered by the Diocese, “contains the appropriate capacity and expertise to address the needs of the particular school causing concern”.
Whereas, for CofE schools the “expectation” would be for another diocesan or “strong church school-led” trust to sponsor underperforming schools. If there are no suitable church trusts then the regional schools commissioner “may look to” a non-Church sponsor. The government says, in this case, the sponsor must safeguard the religious character and ethos of the school.
Last month, Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service, told Schools Week he was pleased the MOU was referenced in the white paper and welcomed “this commitment to our continued relationship”.