Schools

Devon council appoints academy chiefs to run education services

Experts say academisation is increasingly hollowing out council expertise in education

Experts say academisation is increasingly hollowing out council expertise in education

18 Sep 2022, 7:00

More from this author

A troubled local authority has drafted in two multi-academy trust leaders on part-time secondments to lead its education services.

Experts said greater trust-council collaboration was welcome, and noted academisation was increasingly hollowing out council expertise in education.

Devon County Council recently brought many of its education services back in-house after  the end of a decade-long outsourcing deal.

It said this would enable a “more cohesive SEND offer”, and help to cut costs by reducing demand for education and health care plans.

Council chiefs began cost-cutting this month to plug an “unprecedented” £40 million deficit in finances. They were also recently threatened with government intervention in their services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In July, inspectors said Devon had failed to sufficiently tackle “significant weaknesses” identified four years earlier.

In-sourcing will also help Devon to fulfil ongoing statutory duties, which have withered away less than expected when work was contracted out in 2012 as academisation began.

This month Rachel Shaw, the chief executive of Exeter Learning Academy Trust, and Matthew Shanks, who leads Education South West, began as joint interim heads of education. They will “support the new integrated department”, the council said.

Shaw said her focus was on “how our services support the most vulnerable”, and making “best use of available resources”.

Shanks said his focus was “outcomes”, particularly closing the disadvantage gap, and delivering on the schools white paper.

But he played down the idea the two appointments might presage an academisation drive.

Both applied unprompted to an open job advert and linked their success more to their backgrounds leading – and merging – Devon’s primary and secondary head associations. Shanks works two days a week for the council, and Shaw three, under an initial one-year agreement.

“We have busy day jobs, but felt compelled out of civic duty. Devon are doing something different in using school leaders’ experiences.”

Shaw said they could offer “on-the-ground” perspectives on safeguarding, attendance and other services.

A council spokesperson called the pair “highly respected senior leaders”. Processes were in place to avoid council business involving their schools coming “anywhere near” them, Shanks said.

Andrew Pilmore

Andrew Pilmore, a school improvement director at consultancy DRB, said such appointments could reflect councils being “depleted of expertise” since academisation.

“For councils restarting improvement teams, it’s almost inevitable those with recent, demonstrable track records are in successful MATs.”

John Fowler, a policy manager at the Local Government Intelligence Unit, agreed, saying many councils hired education leaders with social work or non-education backgrounds, and management consultants.

Pilmore said a more “joined-up” sector was important, to share best practice and avoid smaller MATs “becoming insular”.

Shaw noted Devon had high levels of not only academisation, but also collaboration through MATs and, previously, federations.

Dan Morrow, the chief executive of Dartmoor MAT, said local leaders welcomed the new appointments, with communication and collaboration improving already. “It’s system leadership based on shared purpose and priorities, not previous designation or affiliation.”

Latest education roles from

Procurement Officer

Procurement Officer

RNN Group

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Barnet and Southgate College

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

RNN Group

Health & Care Coordinator

Health & Care Coordinator

MidKent College

HR Assistant

HR Assistant

MidKent College

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Satis Education

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Navigating NPQ Funding Cuts: Discover Leader Apprenticeships with NPQs

Recent cuts to NPQ funding, as reported by Schools Week, mean 14,000 schools previously eligible for scholarships now face...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How do you tackle the MIS dilemma?

With good planning, attention to detail, and clear communication, switching MIS can be a smooth and straightforward process, but...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Schools

‘Children are our future and it’s for them that Tim dedicated his life’ 

Hundreds gather to remember the late Sir Tim Brighouse

Samantha Booth
Schools

Birmingham withdraws schools from £100m IT system

Heads were unable to make financial plans as glitches left them waiting months to learn the size of their...

Jack Dyson
Schools

Hinds says ‘all schools’ restrict phones, and 5 more key findings

Schools minister also says the 'option' of statutory mobile phone guidance remains

Freddie Whittaker
Schools

CST calls for policy changes over ‘unsustainable’ parent complaints

Academy body says rise in complaints is putting 'significant pressure on school leaders’

Jack Dyson

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *