Academies

‘Coasting’ powers putting ‘squeeze’ on voluntary converter help

Regional director says ‘best examples’ of academisation take place when she collaborates with councils to help them visit trusts and ‘understand the benefits they will bring’

Regional director says ‘best examples’ of academisation take place when she collaborates with councils to help them visit trusts and ‘understand the benefits they will bring’

The government’s “coasting” crackdown is leaving officials “squeezed” to help schools that actually want to convert, a regional director has said.

New powers introduced last September allowed the government to “academise” or “rebroker” schools with two or more consecutive inspections that were less than ‘good’.  

But southwest regional director Hannah Woodhouse said: “One of the things we’re finding, particularly because of all the intervention work we’re doing now because of the new powers, teams are really squeezed in terms of how much we can do with voluntary converters.”  

Schools Week analysis showed 218 coasting letters warning of potential intervention had been sent to trusts in the first seven months of the clampdown. 

Seventeen led to termination warnings or academy orders, while regional directors decided to monitor or offer support to 33 other schools.  

Speaking at the Confederation of School Trusts’ annual conference, Woodhouse added that her team’s lack of resources has also impacted its ability to work with local authorities on voluntary conversions.   

She stated that the “best examples” of academisation take place when she collaborates with councils to help them visit trusts and “understand the benefits they will bring”.    

Woodhouse also told the audience how she was attempting to increase the number of trusts with more than one secondary to “enable hard-wired collaboration” in certain parts of the SouthWest.   

The official stressed the principles were an attempt to make the areas less “fractured”, but added they were not “hard-and-fast” rules.   

“It’s quite important [schools] understand what we’re trying to do because only then will schools want to join trusts that are growing in that area. Of course, they’re not hard and fast [rules].” 

She pointed to Swindon, where some authority-maintained schools “are wanting to form new trusts” even though the area already has 28 trusts.   

The principle is also in place in north Devon, which has just 10 secondary academies spread across 11 trusts. Woodhouse said the area has “no organisational coherence… we’re trying to shape sense here”.  

She added that the principles had been “developed in discussion with all of the trusts, the local authority and, if we can, the maintained sector”.    

This comes after commissioning guidance published in July outlined regions where directors will “align the strategic needs of the school, the academy trust and the local area with trust quality factors to reach a recommendation” on growth applications.   

The document said this would “ensure that our decision-making is focused on what is right for the school, for the trust, and for the local area”.   

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