Is this Memorandum of Understanding a sign of serious action to come?
As readers will know a lot of educational institutions and some related organisations are charities. These include:
- the Governing Bodies of foundation and voluntary schools
- academy trusts
- some independent school providers
- Sixth Form Colleges
- Further Education Colleges
- some universities.
The DFE is the principal regulator for these educational institutions. However, the Charity Commission as regulator of charities must still fulfil their statutory obligations in relation to regulation of these organisations. The purpose of the MOU is to set a framework for how the two regulators will work together and share information.
Summary of the Memorandum of Understanding
The MOU itself is dry. It sets out the mechanics of the relationship with legislative references. What may be more interesting is the timing of this new MOU.
The DFE has been pushing an agenda of good governance for the last couple of years and the rhetoric has increased again in the publication of this year's academies financial handbook for example.
The horror stories in the media about fingers in the till, excessive executive pay, and worse are damaging the Government's flagship education policy the academy programme. The push on governance is presumably one method for addressing such issues.
What may be of interest to the DFE is certain key powers the Charity Commission has that the DFE does not have in law. These include the power to remove trustees, officers and employees and to disqualify individuals from acting as charity trustees.
Until now where the DFE has identified problems (falling short of criminality) it has only been able to use RSC's powers of persuasion (possibly coupled with threats of rebrokering academies. It will be interesting to see if following the new MOU these more draconian powers of the Charity Commission come into play.