On 23 February 2016, the Education and Adoption Bill finished its passage through Parliament and is expected to receive royal assent shortly. The Bill has 14 clauses which amend the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and the Academies Act 2010. There are important changes for maintained schools, academies and Local Authorities.
Maintained schools become “eligible for intervention” if they are “coasting” and that the Secretary of State has informed them they are coasting. Regulations will define what coasting means and regulations will also exempt some schools from being eligible for intervention because they are coasting. In debate, the Government confirmed that there was no intention of applying the coasting definition to some maintained schools such as nursery schools.
Regional schools commissioners (like Local Authorities) will have powers to issue maintained schools with a performance, standards or safety warning notice and a failure to comply with that notice will make a school eligible for intervention. Schools will no longer be able to make representations to OFSTED and the compliance period will be determined by whoever issues the notice. Where a Local Authority gives notice in respect of teacher’s pay and conditions, a deadline will be set by the Council and governors no longer have the right to make representations.
Maintained schools that are eligible for intervention can be required by the Secretary of State to enter into arrangements such as entering contracts or joining a federation. The Secretary of State also has power to direct local authorities as to the membership and terms of interim executive boards.
Where a maintained school requires significant improvement or requires special measures then the Secretary of State must make an academy order. Where a maintained school is forced to convert to an academy then there is no requirement for consultation. However, if a foundation or voluntary school with a foundation is forced to convert, then the Secretary of State must consult trustees, the person who appoints foundation governors and the appropriate religious body in respect of the identity of the sponsor. Governing bodies and Local Authorities “must take all reasonable steps to facilitate the conversion” of schools into academies and the Secretary of State has powers to direct both to take specified steps to facilitate conversion. However, even where an order is made the Secretary of State has power to revoke an order.
Before a maintained school in England which is causing concern is converted into an Academy, the proposed proprietor of the Academy must communicate to the registered parents of registered pupils at the school information about the proposed proprietor’s plans to improve the school.
Academy agreements must allow the Secretary of State to terminate the agreement if the academy is coasting and notice has been given. A termination notice warning must be given and the notice may require an academy to take specified action and to respond to the Secretary of State by a specific date. Where an academy is in special measures or requires significant improvement then an academy may make representations before an agreement is terminated.
A Local Authority must inform the Secretary of State before requiring governors to complete improvement initiatives or suspend a delegated budget. The Secretary of State must also inform a Local Authority when intervention powers are used.