Is this really a U-turn by the DfE?

    Published: 22 June 2016

    Confusion around academisation the main focus of summer’s Heads Seminars

    “Be prepared and don’t rush into anything.” This was the advice given to Hertfordshire headteachers and governors this term, as the apparent U-turn by the Department for Education (DfE) leaves many teachers across the country confused about academisation and what is best for their schools.

    In March, when the DfE outlined their five-year plan entitled “Educational Excellence Everywhere”, schools were informed that they were required to become academies by the end of 2022. The DfE also recommended that schools formed Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), to increase expertise and performance across members of each MAT.

    However, following pressure, there have been some modifications to the original announcement. Schools will no longer be forced into becoming academies unless they are in areas that are considered “under-performing”. This is unlikely to apply to Hertfordshire schools as the county is performing well above the national average, as was discussed during the Primary Heads Seminars, although individual schools are still at risk if their performance does not meet thresholds.

    A recent Ofsted inspection update found that almost 90% of Hertfordshire’s schools are now rated either good or outstanding, which is above both the national average and local authorities that have a demographic similar to Hertfordshire.

    In an interview with the BBC, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan talked about how the DfE is supporting strong local authorities: “We [DfE] absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding – they can make the choice to convert.

    I hope that they will, because we are convinced that becoming academies does lift standards but they can do the right thing for them and I think that reflects the concerns and the conversations that we have had.”

    Due to the importance of making sense of this complex landscape, Herts for Learning widened the audience of the Primary Seminars to include governors and colleagues in secondary and special schools and is running an additional seminar on the 24th June for those who found the earlier sessions booked up.

    The role of Herts for Learning, in the new landscape, was set out by HfL’s Managing Director Jan Paine. HfL has been working closely with contacts from the Regional Schools Commissioner, the DfE and our legal team to discuss the options available.

    Jan spoke about the possibility of setting up a Herts for Learning MAT, which the company’s board of directors are supportive of, should schools wish to take up that option.

    The seminars also included members from education legal specialists Stone King solicitors, who highlighted the important legal considerations and governance options for schools. Delegates had the chance to listen to Amanda Godfrey from the Spiral Partnership, who spoke about what life is like in a MAT. She talked about what has changed since being an academy and what has stayed the same, and gave a few tips of what MATs should do. Dean McKenna, from the Aspire Academies Trust, discussed the roles and responsibilities of a chair of trustees and the main lessons he has learnt since being part of the Aspire Trust.

    HfL will continue to offer the full range of services to its current schools, academies and MAT customers and is developing a wide range of packages suitable for use across a multi academy trust. Regular updates will be sent to shareholders as the landscape develops.

    By Ryan Fisher, Journalist

    We welcome your thoughts and comments via Twitter using @HertsLearning.

    This article is from the June edition of The Exchange. To read the full newspaper please visit: bit.ly/TE-Jun16