DfE launches regulatory review to ‘future proof’ academy trusts

Amanda Spielman, Leora Cruddas and trust representatives will advise Baroness Barran on accountability reforms

Amanda Spielman, Leora Cruddas and trust representatives will advise Baroness Barran on accountability reforms

The government has launched a review of school accountability and regulation it claims will “future proof” the role of academy trusts and “pave the way” for the conversion of all schools.

The regulatory review, which was supposed to be launched in May, was pledged in the government’s schools white paper earlier this year. It forms part of ministers’ plan to get all schools either into multi-academy trusts or in the process of joining by 2030.

Its publication also follows strong criticism of the government’s controversial schools bill, with ministers accused of a Whitehall power-grab over wide-ranging new academy standards and intervention powers.

Baroness Barran (pictured), the academies minister, will chair the regulatory review, which will be “directly informed” by an expert group.

A full membership list has not yet been published,  but the government said it would include Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, Confederation of School Trusts CEO Leora Cruddas and LSE professor Martin Lodge.

There will also be “further representatives from the academy trust sector to be confirmed shortly”.

The review will also “engage throughout with parliamentarians, representatives from unions including ASCL and NAHT, and other interested parties via working groups, visits and workshops to test and iterate proposals”.

As part of the process, the government will consider the “core values and minimum standards by which the school system will operate”, and a regulatory and commissioning strategy ” that ensures those minimum standards are met, and exceeded”.

This phase will also “consider the role of inspection as a regulatory tool”.

The review will consider what change “might be needed immediately, in the medium-term and long-term”. But the DfE said that initially its schools bill will not “seek to materially change existing academy trust standards”.

It will also inform future law changes “following the third session of Parliament”, which ends next July.

Barran said the “very many strong academy trusts across the country do a great job of improving their schools”.

But she warned that “not every school is currently in a strong trust or has the option of joining one”.

“Our three-pronged approach between the schools white paper, schools bill, and our new regulatory review, will change that. It will create a new, higher performing school system that parents love and gives every child every chance of success.”

Here’s what the review will look at…

Defining, measuring and judging trust strength

  • Minimum standards for trusts
  • Developing a ‘strong trust definition’
  • Metrics to support the definition
  • How judgments made can be ‘nuanced and risk-based’
  • What this means for measurement and data collection

Intervention and direction from the regulator

  • Regulatory strategy, including ‘harms’ a regulator will focus on
  • The ‘risk appetite for intervention’
  • Alignment between minimum standards and trust strength
  • How the regulatory framework will inform local decisions
  • The role for trust-level inspection

Incentivising system improvement

  • The DfE’s ‘overall approach to commissioning’
  • The incentives for trusts to improve
  • How trusts are chosen to take on schools
  • How decisions are made about new trusts, trust growth and ‘significant changes to schools’
  • ‘Whether, when and how’ it is appropriate to move schools

Delivering regulation and commissioning

  • How regulatory and commissioning functions will be distributed
  • The skills regulators and commissioners need
  • Opportunities to ‘reduce the burden of regulation’
  • Making processes transparent so they’re ‘viewed as legitimate’
  • What routes of challenge and appeal should be available
  • How new legislation will be applied

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