Academies

‘Trust quality descriptors miss community focus’

CEO of one of England's biggest MATs calls for sixth 'pillar' of trust quality to be added to guidance

CEO of one of England's biggest MATs calls for sixth 'pillar' of trust quality to be added to guidance

The government’s academy trust “quality” descriptors are “short on ethics” and should have an extra pillar to focus on the work MATs do in the community, a top boss has said.

John Barneby, chief executive of the Oasis Community Learning trust, said the current criteria could be creating “islands of schools” rather than looking at how trusts are “integrating” on a local level.

The descriptors surfaced in the schools white paper, with ministers basing them around five “pillars” now used by officials to inform academy commissioning decisions.

They are: high-quality and inclusive leadership; school improvement; workforce; finance and operations; governance and leadership.

‘Trust descriptors fall short’

But speaking at the Schools and Academies Show on Wednesday, Barneby called for the creation of another pillar that looks “holistically at what trusts were actually delivering” in their communities. 

“[The five pillars are] descriptors of an organisation. I’m not sure they’re descriptors of education. 

John Barneby
John Barneby

“They fall short in that area, they fall short in ethics and how multi-academy trusts should behave at a local level, how they should build a local system. If anything, they drive… islands of schools, rather than actually integrating local community provision.”

The Department for Education fleshed out the descriptors in April, with trusts told to support flexible working, operate collaboratively and “take action to promote equality and diversity”.

The guidance “represents a clear and ambitious vision for the academies sector,” government said at the time. Officials also hoped it would “inform trusts’ improvement and capacity-building priorities”.

However, Dr Angeline Tyler, former joint chief executive of the Griffin Schools Trust, told the event the descriptors state “the bleeding obvious”. 

Pointing to sections of the guidance on staff retention and pupil attendance, she labelled the pillars a list of things that “are now missing from our system”.

Calls for new pillar to be added

Alluding to national problems with keeping teachers in the profession and getting children to come to school, Tyler added that the problems have been caused by “consecutive policy statements or directions”.

Dr Angeline Tyler

Despite this, MATs are now “expected to not only get them back on the agenda, but to deliver” the solutions.

Barneby added the descriptors should consider the role chains play in developing children “socially, emotionally, environmentally, physically, spiritually”, in addition to educational outcomes. 

“I would say they’re a good start,” he added. “I do think there’s a sixth pillar that needs to go in that is much more about what education is actually about than just the compliance model.”

New commissioning guidance published by the DfE last summer set out how regional directors should assess “strategic need” and trust quality before ruling on academisation plans.

The document said the five pillars would underpin decisions. Regional directors would link various evidence to each pillar, including “headline metrics” – drawn from MAT performance tables – which would then be used to “form a hypothesis about a trust’s quality”.

More from this theme

Academies

MATs ‘more likely’ to be approved to run council-proposed special schools

DfE introduces expectation that bids via the 'free school presumption route' demonstrate 'resilience' in face of falling rolls and...

Jack Dyson
Academies

Regional directors push growing MATs to mentors

Bosses of trusts wanting to expand are now being told by regional directors to get mentoring from experienced CEOs

Jack Dyson
Academies

Regional director’s merger mission after ‘landgrabs’

Academy commissioner reveals 'countless' merger discussions with CEOs, as he defends DfE's 'coasting' policy

Jack Dyson
Academies

Academy staff could strike over ‘excessive’ GAG pooling

National Education Union members at the Hastings Academy are expected to vote on proposed walkouts

Jack Dyson
Academies

Small academy trusts warned over asking for government advice

Leaders believe chain was pushed towards a merger by the DfE after calling in finance and governance experts

Jack Dyson
Academies

Academy trust defends £40k Teslas for central team staff

Aspirations Academies Trust has paid around £90,000 over three years for the leased vehicles

Jack Dyson

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *