Church agrees new academies plan with government

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”.

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  1. For fairness and to avoid discrimination on the basis of religion, surely all faith schools will need to be given similar Memoranda of Understanding in how they can or cannot be taken over by a MAT. We will then have a situation where schools with a religious association will have a veto on Academisation and other schools will not have such a veto.

    Do we want an education system in England where praying to your God gives you additional privileges in law? I thought we needed to integrate different sections of our society. What a mess! The lawyers are going to be making a lot of money.

  2. Chalkface

    The White Paper is unravelling

    So far we have the following concessions;

    1 Good schools will not be forced to join a MAT as long as they are sustainable (whatever that means)
    2 Small village schools will be protected by a special fund
    3 Local Authorities will be able to form a Trust – i.e. carry on being a Local Authority
    4 Now this

  3. Andrew G-H

    To take AssemblyTube’s point further, either this freedom should be extend to all schools, or it shouldn’t exist. To allow certain faith groups flexibilities makes a mockery of the separation of Church & State in this country.

  4. There’s nothing that says Local Authorities will be allowed to form trusts only that local authority staff can do so – important distinction. The statement on small schools is nonsense because in reality most very small schools would not be considered sustainable even as part of a MAT in the context of a national funding formula which will not give sufficient weight to the school’s small size. And as for the concessions being offered to faith schools well that’s no surprise. The government knows that with the House of Lords full of Bishops they would never get any legislation through that doesn’t protect the Church of England and RC schools. That said I do think there is a groundswell of opinion, including from conservatives, that the forcible conversion of large numbers of highly performing schools is not a good idea and the proposal to allow trusts not to have parent governors is likely to be dropped with much fanfare at some point.

  5. Patrick Mainprize

    Forcing change whether political, economic, educational or social has never worked. You only have to look back at history to know that. People, and I include children, work best when they are happy and enjoy what they are doing, not when they are pressured, stressed and unhappy. Failing schools are often the result of social and economic circumstances, something which this government are sadly doing very little about. I have worked in education for over 40 years now and I am saddened, if not angry, about what is being forced on our schools and on our children by people who seem to know little about learning and teaching. Maybe it is time for people with ‘real’ lives to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough’ before it is too late and our education system is wrecked.

  6. This is discrimination against schools from other faiths and schools (the majority) without a faith designation.
    CofE and RC churches should be fighting mass academisation not seeking concessions for themselves.

  7. Tony Jayman

    This statement: “The MOUs state that the Church will have a final say on whether schools convert to academy status.” is more than a concession. It means that not all schools will become academies? This does not make sense.

  8. Tarquin DeLauncey

    This is a stitch up between the church and the DfE. I attended a briefing for head teachers last week by our local diocesan educational board, where we informed that all of our schools would be forced to join a diocese run MAT. This will be 106 schools, making it by far and away the largest MAT in the country. Not one of the heads or chairs of governors wanted this. This is a massive power-grab by the Church of England and return to a situation that we have not had in this country since the mid-nineteenth century. Expect many resignations. Mine included.

  9. I suspect these MoU will start to come apart soon enough. Noticeable lacking from either document was any discussion on land ownership. In the white paper, ministers come up with the “clever” ruse, lets simplify the expensive land ownership issues by having DfE own all academy land. In essence it proposes the state will take ownership of all school land.

    This will not go down well at all with the churches and will become a serious complicating factor and a major hurdle to full church engagement.