Tackling the isolation of small, rural schools in the north will be one of the priorities for the headteacher board covering the region, Janet Renou, the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for the area has said.
Speaking to Schools Week, Ms Renou also said that the geographical isolation of schools could present a barrier to academisation – and that growing the number of converter academies was something that the board she leads was focusing on early.
Ms Renou said: “We’ve been looking at underperformance and considering appropriate ways to intervene where there are concerns. But we’re also looking at increasing the number of converters
that we get in the region, and a major priority is to build our pool of academy sponsors.”
Ms Renou said that she would be looking for more academies, and more businesses and charities with educational experience, to consider becoming sponsors.
Of all of the RSC regions, the north is joint with Lancashire and west Yorkshire in having the lowest proportion of academies – and Ms Renou said that this stemmed in part from the geography of the school system in the region.
“I think we’ve got more than our fair share of small schools. And if you look at North Yorkshire and you look at Cumbria, we’ve got a lot of rural isolation,” Ms Renou said.
“Because of that I think it makes it more difficult for them to make the leap, because they’re so isolated. So one of the big jobs is to set those networks up and to make sure that we try and pull people together so they don’t feel that isolation. That’s one of the big issues of this area.”
Asked how schools were being encouraged to convert to academy status, Ms Renou said that the headteacher board played the main role in this.
“We use the headteacher board, and colleagues, rather than it come from me. One of the things that I’ve said about this job is that it isn’t about me. It’s about the people that we work with, it’s about the networks we work through,” Ms Renou said.
“We are getting the headteacher board and all of the academy heads to work and to spread the message. So it’s by role-modelling and showing what can be done, and using the headteacher board as advocates for the programme.”
Ms Renou was previously headteacher at Skipton Girls’ High School, which converted to academy status in 2011. She said that her strong roots in the region was one of the reasons why she took the new RSC role, as well as the opportunity to offer her expertise to a wider audience.
“I’m a product of the north, born and brought up in Middlesbrough and Redcar, so it’s an area that I know, it’s an area that I’ve got family in. It’s great to come back and work with the leaders in the area to move the academies programme forward in the north,” she said.
The board has yet to co-opt an additional two members, as is its right, though
Ms Renou said that she thought it would be beneficial to appoint someone representing the far north of the region and someone with special educational needs experience.
The data was collected with the help of Watchsted.com