RSC Guide: Rebecca Clark, South-west England

It’s been two years since the first regional schools commissioners and their headteacher boards were appointed.

To keep you up to date, Schools Week is running four updates in which Freddie Whittaker looks at two RSC areas each week. Who’s new, who’s still there – and how they are doing on those all-important academisation rates.

South-west England: Rebecca Clark

The vast rural patch across which Sir David Carter once darted is now in the hands of Rebecca Clark (pictured) after two years of significant growth in the number of academies.

Stretching from Chipping Campden in the north of Gloucestershire more than 250 miles down to Land’s End on the most westerly point in Cornwall, the south-west of England is the longest of any of the eight commissioner regions.

About 38 per cent of schools in the region are now academies, up 12 percentage points since 2014. This compares with a current national figure of 28 per cent.


Carter presided over much of the growth before his promotion to national commissioner in February. Clark, once England’s youngest headteacher and latterly a national director for Oasis Community Learning, was appointed in April.

Academy growth rates between local authority areas in the south west are diverse. While the number has doubled in some areas since 2014, the percentage increase is in single digits in others.

In North Somerset, which has 77 schools: 27 are now academies, an increase of 125 per cent on 2014, when 12 were academies. In Poole, 30 of the 41 schools are now academies, up 114 per cent from 14 in 2014.

In Bristol and Gloucestershire, two areas in which Carter made his name as a head, growth has been slower – with increases of 17 and 11 per cent, respectively.

The area’s headteacher board has been relatively stable for the past two years.

Roger Pope, from Kingsbridge community college, attended his last board meeting in September, but the three other original elected members, Dave Baker, Lorraine Heath and Lisa Mannall, remain in post.

Appointed members Nick Capstick and Brian Hooper are also still on the board with new members Alun Williams and Joy Tubbs co-opted last autumn. Their appointment boosted membership from six to seven.

According to evidence presented at the education select committee, Clark undertook 162 external engagements in her first five months, ranging from conversations with heads and academy trusts, to school visits and speaking engagements.

She also leapt to the defence of academy trusts that were seen as having grown too quickly.

She admitted that there was “absolutely” a stage where some trusts “grew really quickly”, and faced a “challenge” in terms of capacity.

But she added that the “vast majority” of those trusts “have learned those lessons and have taken quite definitive steps to address them”.

As of last September, Carter was paid a basic salary of between £140,000 and £145,000. Details of Clark’s salary are yet to be published.


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  1. I note that in Swindon , recently lambasted by Ofsted, 50% of schools are academies. My analysis tells me that all but one secondary schools are academies. What has Rebecca Clark to say to the observation that academisation has failed and continues to fail?

    • Mark Watson

      What frustrates me about so much of the discussion on academisation is that when someone defends the process by referring to a particular academy as being outstanding, more often than not everyone piles in to say that it was an excellent school before it converted, with a great head and SLT, and the fact that it is an academy has no relevance to its success.
      However, when an academy is failing there is no such compunction and all you get is comments like the above saying “academisation has failed”. I don’t know all the facts about schools in Swindon, but if the schools there have been failing for decades and have only become academies in the last couple of years is it reasonable to say that all their problems are solely down to them having converted to academies?

  2. My point is simply that the DfE has for many years been promoting the nonsense that academisation in and of itself is a universal panacea despite ever-growing volumes of evidence that it is not and cannot be. 50% of all schools, whatever their status or type will always be below average. It is also mad for Ofsted to lambast the council in Swindon for the performance of academies over which they have no control.

    • Mark Watson

      Firstly – if your point is that saying academisation is a panacea in and of itself is nonsense (which I completely agree with) then your first comment above is equally as nonsensical. That may have been your intention, but that is all I was saying.
      Secondly – your comments about 50% of schools always being below average is not mathematically correct (pedant alert) but the principle is valid. However the premise is irrelevant. If we ever get to the stage where the ‘average’ for schools is Outstanding then if almost all the other schools are ‘Good’ then we are doing well. It all depends on where the average is set.
      Thirdly – Ofsted did not just lambast Swindon Council, it lambasted all headteachers, all chairs of Governors, the RSC, all chief executives of MATs and the two MPs. Indeed the letter itself stated “I am, therefore, widening the audience of this letter so that no key player in Swindon’s schools can be in any doubt of the seriousness of the situation”. It urged all these people to act swiftly and in unison to improve things for Swindon’s pupils.