The Education and Adoption Bill, which aims to develop the intervention powers of the Government in respect of schools causing concern, is now halfway through the legislative process.
Unsurprisingly the Bill has been the subject of a significant amount of scrutiny since its first reading in Parliament at the beginning of June. In particular, the focus has been on the definition of “coasting” and, consequently, which schools will fall into this category and be subject to forced academisation (the Government has already confirmed that every school rated “inadequate” by Ofsted will be turned into an Academy).
During the early stages of the Bill’s legislative journey, the Government had not expressly defined “coasting” within the Bill itself. Criticism from the opposition, as well as lobbying groups and unions, resulted in a press release from the Department for Education just before the summer that provided some guidance on when schools will be eligible for intervention should they fall below a new “coasting level”.
Primary schools will fall into the category if:
- In 2014 and 2015 the school has seen fewer than 85% of children achieving level 4 in reading, writing and maths, and have also seen below-average proportions of pupils making expected progress between age 7 and age 11; and
- In 2016 the school does not meet the “coasting level” set against a new accountability regime (although this level is yet to be determined).
Secondary schools will fall into the category if:
- In 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60% of children achieve 5 A* to C grades including English and mathematics and they are below the median level of expected progress; and
- In 2016 they fall below a level set against the new progress 8 measure (a level which will be set after the 2016 results).
As the definition is based on performance in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Department for Education will not actually know until 2016 how many schools will be captured by the definition, but based on current performance they expect the number will be in the hundreds.
Schools that are eventually deemed to fall within the definition of coasting will be required to produce a credible improvement plan and, if the Department for Education consider that they do not have the capacity to improve, may be forced to convert and/or join a multi-academy trust. The Department for Education’s powers have already been extended under the recently updated Model Funding Agreements. Schools converting to academy status on or after 1 December 2015 will be required to enter into the new form of Funding Agreement that introduces the concept of a “Coasting Notice”, which extends the Department for Education’s powers on termination.
However, as the Bill continues its journey through Parliament, it is likely that we may see further developments and potentially another press release from the Department for Education clarifying some of the remaining unanswered questions.;