Academy trust chief executives without headship experience can now serve as advisors to regional schools commissioners, the government has confirmed as it prepares for fresh elections for the posts.
Official documents seen by Schools Week show the board elections will begin in September, after planned polls last year were shelved because of Covid.
The government wants to run the next elections “as soon as possible in the 2021/22 academic year to ensure all boards are at full capacity”, a Department for Education letter issued yesterday states.
Previously, only trust leaders who had been headteachers within the past five years could fill the roles overseeing the academy system in their regions.
Serving and recently retired heads are also able to stand for the 32 elected posts across eight regions.
All headships must have been at academies ranked “outstanding” overall or for leadership within the past four years, expanded from the previous two-year window because of Covid inspection disruption.
No such standards requirements have been announced for trust leaders who have not been heads, though they must have served as CEOs for at least three years.
Nominees also face DfE checks over their trust’s record on finances, related party transactions and “executive pay issues”.
The changes explain the decision to rebrand headteacher boards as advisory boards this year. A name change was considered in 2017, but then-education secretary Justine Greening was said to have resisted the move.
Four elected members serve in each English region covered by an RSC, alongside members that commissioners themselves can appoint to ensure a “mix of skills”, according to the rulebook.
A DFE spokesperson said successfully elected members would “provide advice and challenge to the decisions regional schools commissioners take in their local areas”.
Boards meet regularly to help RSCs with key decisions over struggling, expanding or new schools and trusts, such as academy conversion and rebrokering.
“We would encourage experienced academy head teachers and CEOs of academy trusts to nominate themselves for election, and will provide more details on the process shortly,” the DfE spokesperson added.
The government has put a contract to run the elections out to tender. Election results are expected to be confirmed in “early 2022”.
Only academy heads and executive heads can vote in the first-past-the-post polls.
Tender documents say the DfE hopes the latest round of recruits can also help to “raise the profile of RSC work and the academy system”, and provide “local knowledge and ”real-time’ feedback on conditions in the academy sector”.