The Department for Education is advertising for “school improvement” roles at a regional schools commissioner’s office, a move that many will view as replicating the function of local authorities within central government.
Two experts are being recruited – one for academy school improvement and another on trust development – to work in the Sheffield office of John Edwards, the RSC for the east midlands and the Humber, for between six and nine months.
The plan is to recruit them from schools, multi-academy trusts or councils, and they will work work part-time, earning a maximum salary of £67,680 pro rata.
I think the DfE acknowledges that its efforts have disproportionately gone into building up the number and size of MATs
However, even though just two roles are currently advertised, Schools Week understands this is a trial run for a wider recruitment policy that could be replicated across the country.
The DfE has been criticised for its focus on increasing the number and size of multi-academy trusts without putting equal effort into ensuring quality, and one academic has speculated that the new roles demonstrate that officials are at last acknowledging this problem.
Once in post, the new experts will be expected to train colleagues, including a “cadre of education advisers”, on improvement strategies, while also working with MAT chief executives. After their secondment is over, they will return to their original jobs.
The job advert says the ideal candidates will come from schools and MATs – but sources close to the recruitment process say staff from teaching school alliances and local councils will also be considered.
A source said the government wanted to “get away from the typical civil servant who has never been in a school deciding what schools need”.
The move further expands the regional schools commissioners’ networks, and around 36 sub-regional improvement boards are also under development, as first revealed by Schools Week, consisting of RSC staff, council officers, teaching schools and civil servants.
However, Robert Hill, an academic who has written about the changes, does not understand the DfE’s current drive as a duplication of LA roles.
“I think the DfE acknowledges – though would not say so publicly – that its efforts have disproportionately gone into building up the number and size of MATs rather than on ensuring that MATs understand how to operate effectively and are equipped to do so,” he told Schools Week.
“If my assumption is right and this is part of the rebalancing of the MAT agenda, then it is broadly to be welcomed, though one would hope that any activity and work that comes out of the appointments would be coordinated with LAs.”
The money on offer for the two new roles are similar to those offered by local authorities. For example, Walsall Council is currently seeking a school improvement partner team manager, which has a maximum salary of £62,774, while last year, the London Borough of Lewisham sought two school improvement officers, earning up to £69,388.