The Conservative party have today pledged to ‘significantly strengthen’ the intervention powers of the eight Regional School Commissioners (RSC) in England.
Under the proposals the newly appointed RSCs would be able to ‘intervene immediately’ in any school graded inadequate by Ofsted, not just the free schools and academies they currently oversee.
A Conservative spokesperson said the new powers would be developed in “consultation with Ofsted and the Education Endowment Foundation”, but a “menu of options” might include forcing schools to put children into classes based on ability, or ‘sets’ as they are also known.
Other potential interventions included replacing the leadership, as well as mandating the schools to introduce new policies on classroom disciplinary measures, school uniform standards and homework.
The plans would not change the role of Ofsted, but local authorities would have to hand over responsibility to the RSCs for schools that have been judged inadequate.
The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “We have witnessed a revolution in school standards over the past four years, with more young people being taught in good or outstanding schools today than ever before.
“We will not tolerate failure, and where we find it we will use tried and trusted interventions to turn things around in the interests of young people everywhere”.
The Conservative plan also came with a commitment to create a National Teaching Service (NTS) to “attract the best teachers to the toughest schools.”
Members of the NTS would receive a ‘National Teaching Fellowship’ financial supplement on top of their salary on the condition they taught in a “failing or coasting school” for anything from two terms to two years.
The NTS members would be employed centrally and seconded to poor performing schools across England, echoing the National Service Teacher concept outlined by Ofsted’s chief inspector in June 2013.
The Conservative spokesperson said that after an initial pilot “the ambition would be to aim for 1500 teachers a year by 2020 – enough to place two teachers in every failing school in England and detailed plans will be contained in the Conservative party manifesto.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary NAHT, a school leaders’ union has described the proposed powers as being “aimed at the instant dismissal of head teachers.” He said: “Here we see the first reverberations of UKIP on education policy. Today’s announcement may make good politics to some but it makes lousy school improvement.
“It seems that the Conservatives have learned little or nothing about schools during their tenure in office. Their only strategy for school improvement is to crack the whip; no matter that such punitive tactics make it difficult to recruit talented people to take on tough schools.”
Responding directly to the criticism from NAHT the Conservative spokesperson told Schools Week: “While we are unapologetic in supporting measures to transform failing schools it simply isn’t true to suggest this proposal would see headteachers instantly dismissed. On the contrary, we look forward to working with unions such as NAHT to develop the toolkit of interventions to support failing schools”