The Government has published a White Paper setting out its proposals for reforms to the state school sector. The most significant item is the Government’s plan that, by the end of 2020, all remaining maintained schools will be academies or in the process of conversion. By 2022, local authorities will no longer maintain any schools.

Recruiting and maintaining teachers

Qualified teaching status will be replaced with a “stronger, more challenging” accreditation based on a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. As part of this, schools will be given more scope to bring in experts from other fields (for example, musicians or coders) to put them on the path to accreditation.

Allocation of Initial Teaching Training (ITT) places will be reformed, to be based on need, demand and quality, and ITT will have a greater focus on subject knowledge.

A new Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development will be established to help schools improve the quality of continued professional development (CPD). The Government has also pledged to support the establishment of an independent College of Teaching, which will be a voluntary membership organisation designed along the lines of the royal medical colleges. This will launch in 2016 and will support a new, peer-reviewed British education journal.

The feasibility of incentivising (potentially paying) teachers to publish their research and CPD on an “open-source” basis will also be considered.

Strengthening School leadership

Much emphasis is placed on better trained leaders helping to boost retention and improve classroom teachers’ practice.

Head teachers, chief executives of multi-academy trusts (MATs) and other experts would help to design new voluntary National Professional Qualifications for each level of leadership. This is to “better prepare” leaders in the system.

An Excellence in Leadership fund would be set up for the best MATs and other providers to develop ideas to tackle leadership challenges in areas where these are most needed.

Sustainable school improvement

There would be investment in 800 designated leaders of excellent schools – National Leaders of Education (NLEs) – to provide extra support.

Strengthening assessment and standards of qualification

There is a focus on developing a “world leading” curriculum and ensuring that the vast majority of pupils study the English Baccalaureate.

As part of this, it is stated that maintained schools should be taking account of the experience of independent schools in building pupils’ ‘character and resilience’. For example, the proposals include making more funding available for 25% of secondary students to extend their school day to include further activities such as sport, arts and debating.

Reforming funding

The Government intends to introduce a new “fair, national funding formula”. From 2019, individual schools’ budgets will be set by a national formula rather than the current 152 locally-devised formulae. The formula will have 4 components (1) a basic formula weighted by age, (2) additional pupil needs (deprived backgrounds, low prior attainment, English as additional language), (3) lump sum (extra funding for rural schools) and (4) geographical adjustment (e.g. more money for London schools). The new formula is likely to have the effect of transferring some funding from areas which are currently better funded to areas currently less well funded.

Changing legal framework

Most schools will form or join multi-academy trusts (MATs). Save in exceptional circumstances, the smallest schools will have to form or join a MAT (though small schools will still exist). Other successful, sustainable schools will be able to continue as single academy trusts. Successful MATs will take over the schools or weaker MATs. The Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC) will intervene in coasting or failing academies or MATs.

By the end of 2022, it is intended that local authorities will no longer maintain schools. Responsibility for school improvement will transfer from the local authority to schools and system leaders. Local authorities will instead “concentrate on delivering their core functions” and will be granted more control regarding the co-ordination of all in-year admissions and appeals.

Free Schools

The Government intends to extend the free schools programme and open at least 500 new schools by 2020. The University Technical Colleges (UTC) programme will be ‘strengthened’. Some of these new free schools will be set up as ‘challenger’ schools in areas of poor education standards.

The Government is committed to there being a UTC within reach of every city. There is an expectation that all UTCs should be part of strong partnerships with high performing secondary schools, such as MATs.

Land

To speed up the process of academy conversion, when a local authority’s community schools convert to academy status, land held by the authority for those schools will transfer to the Secretary of State, who will then grant a lease to the academy trust. The Secretary of State will take steps to ensure that the existing school estate can be used more easily for new schools and expansions where applicable.

Where a school converts to academy status, the government will not take ownership of any land owned either by the schools themselves, or by any charitable trust. The ability for maintained schools to convert to foundation status will be removed.

Legal framework and governance

The Government says that, on average, MATs begin to develop the centralised systems and functions to deliver better governance, more efficient back office arrangements and improvements to the curriculum and extra-curricular activities at around 10-15 academies. The Government expects more MATs of this size.

The Government will engage with MATs, sponsors, academies, dioceses and the wider schools sector to ensure the legal framework is fit for purpose for the long term, removing any legal differences that exist at the moment due to different dates of conversion. The legal framework will be redesigned so that it:

  • protects and promotes autonomy, alongside robust and proportionate accountability;
  • ensures ministers are able to make and evolve policy that will apply equally to both past and future academies;
  • facilitates a clear and transparent mechanism by which successful providers can expand, and unsuccessful ones can shrink or leave the system.

Funding of MATs

The Government will continue to operate a system whereby larger MATS can maintain autonomy over their capital funding, and smaller MATS and standalone academies will receive extra support (i.e. a continuation of the condition improvement fund, or similar arrangements). The Government intends to make available capital funding to support the expansion of existing provision, as well as the development of new schools. At least £200m will be available and the Government will publish later this year further information on how it will be distributed.

The two phases of the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) will continue, refurbishing or rebuilding over 500 of the schools in worst condition by 2021. In the interim, local authorities will continue to manage capital allocations for maintained schools.

Academy sponsors

The Government wants to recruit more academy sponsors. These could include charitable trusts set up by businesses, individuals or groups of “like-minded” leaders and educators.

We will be monitoring the progress of the Government’s proposals over the coming months and will be issuing further briefings in due course.

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