RSC headteacher boards rebranded as fresh elections loom

Headteacher boards have been renamed regional advisory boards, with new elections looming.

The headteacher boards which advise regional schools commissioners are set for a rebrand, as fresh elections loom for the roles overseeing the academy system.

A tender notice for a contractor to run elections between September and March refers to “regional advisory boards”, with four roles up for grabs in each of the eight areas covered by RSCs.

The rebrand is likely to reflect the fact many RSCs are already multi-academy trust leaders rather than headteachers. A name change was considered in 2017, but then-education secretary Justine Greening was said to have resisted the move.

Their role appears likely to remain unchanged,  providing “advice, scrutiny and challenge” on RSC interventions in struggling, expanding or new schools and trusts.  The boards were first established in 2014.

Plans and a timeline for the latest elections have not been announced beyond the notice published on Friday.  National schools commissioner Dominic Herrington said in April they had been delayed by the pandemic, promising elections “as soon as we’re ready”.

Only academy heads and executive heads can vote in the first-past-the-post polls, which were due to be held last year.

Elected members serve a three-year term, alongside up to four appointed members.  The boards meet most months to decide on the conversion and rebrokering of under-performing schools, free school openings, and MAT creation, expansion, mergers and other significant academy changes.

Candidates must be heads of good or outstanding academies, or trust leaders or recently retired heads who have met such criteria previously.  Nominees also face DfE checks over their trust’s record on finances, related party transactions and “executive pay issues”.

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”.

“The RSCs and RABs are best placed with their local knowledge to lead and drive action in the opportunity areas where social mobility is the weakest,” tender documents say.

Each commissioner has oversight of vast administrative regions with unusual boundaries, including the divvying up of London between three commissioners also responsible for south-east, south-central and the east of England.

Union leaders have previously accused the boards of “undermining the role of democratically elected local authorities”.

The DfE will pay an “election contractor” up to £30,000 to handle the election process. It has been approached for comment.

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