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Publication requirements on schools and academies

August 30, 2016

The requirements on what information schools, academies and academy trusts must publish on their websites has changed a number of times over recent years with new government guidance and regulations.

From this September the latest update to the Academies Financial Handbook  places more specific requirements on academy trusts to publish information about their governance arrangements.

The requirements on schools, academies and trusts are formally set out in a number of places – the DfE’s Governance Handbook; Regulations for maintained schools; their funding agreement and the Academies Financial Handbook  for trusts and academies; plus for academy trusts, aspects of general companies legislation.

Whilst the changes over recent years have primarily added to the information that must be published, the requirements to publish some specific items have been removed.

If you are unsure of what the new requirements are or how they will affect you, if you would like advice and support in ensuring that you are publishing the correct information, or a ‘compliance audit’ to check that you are meeting the requirements, please get in touch.

 

 

 

 

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When is a governor not a governor?

February 9, 2015

When DfE guidance and legislation use the term ‘governing body’ they mean the body with legal responsibility for governing the school or academy. But this can leave room for confusion!

For a locally maintained (local authority run) school, it is straightforward enough –  ‘governing body’ means the school’s Governing Body and ‘governors’ means those people that everyone involved is used to calling ‘governors’.

But it is no longer as simple as that.

When talking about an academy, legislation and guidance use the terms ‘governors’, ‘directors’ and ‘trustees’ interchangeably, and the term ‘governor’ may not mean what most of us have become used to it meaning.

Fir an academy trust, that operates under ‘company’ rules, the ‘governing body’ of the trust (the company) is better described as the Board of Directors and the ‘governors’ as Directors. (This is actually the terminology used in the DfE’s latest model Articles of Association for academies.)

In a single academy trust, the board of directors and the governing body of the academy is the same thing; the members of the governing body are the legal ‘governors’ and Directors of the academy. So using the words interchangeably is not really a problem.

But in a multi academy trust the distinction does matter.

In a multi academy trust, the ‘governing body’ is the single board of directors of the Trust.

A multi academy trust may continue to call its local governing bodies ‘governing bodies’ and their members ‘governors’; but they are not directors –  they are not the ‘governors’ of the trust and a local governing body is not the ‘governing body’ referred to in guidance and legislation.

The exact roles and responsibilities of a local governing body and its members, and how the formal responsibilities apply to Directors and governors, will depend on the scheme of delegation of the Trust.

 

 

Complaints about an Academy

March 28, 2013

An outline of the complaints procedure and the role of the EFA

All schools including Academies must have a procedure for dealing with complaints against the school made by parents of pupils at the school.

Complaints about the administration of the appeals process for admissions are dealt with by a separate procedure.

An academy’s procedure for handling complaints against the school must comply with the Education (Independent Schools Standards) Regulations 2010, SI 2010/1997.

The Regulations require that a school’s complaints procedure must include:

  1. Informal stage, eg through discussion with senior staff.
  2. Formal complaint stage when complaint made in writing.
  3. Hearing before panel appointed by proprietor made up of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters that are subject to the complaint, one of whom must be independent of the management or running of the school.

Where an academy has considered a complaint in accordance with its policy, but the matter has not been resolved, the complainant may complain to the Education Funding Agency (EFA), and the EFA will consider the complaint in accordance with its complaints policy.

The EFA will normally only consider a complaint about an Academy after the Academy’s own complaints procedure has been exhausted.

The EFA will not consider a complaint:

  • Regarding examination results or curriculum where it would be more appropriate to take it up with the examining body or Ofqual.
  • A statement of SEN that should be dealt with by the SEN and disability tribunal.
  • That they consider vexatious or malicious.
  • Over 12 months old, usually.

The EFA acts on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The EFA cannot review or overturn decisions about complaints made by Academies. It can only investigate whether the Academy considered the complaint appropriately, and if it finds that an Academy did not, it can request the Academy to re-consider the complaint.

Complaints about an academy should be sent by email to academyquestions@efa.education.gov.uk

Or by post to: Academies Central Unit (Academy Complaints), Education Funding Agency, Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH

Complaints about the EFA or about how it has handled a complaint should, be sent marked “Complaint about EFA – Academies” to the same address.

Conversion update

November 20, 2012

By September 2012, a total of 2309 schools had converted to academies of which 1808 were converter schools and 501 sponsored. The majority are secondary schools (1484) with 769 being primary and 56 special schools.

This means that nearly half of all secondary schools are now academies and 48% of the secondary school workforce are working under an academy structure.

Three quarters of academies are ‘converters’ – schools which have chosen to become academies. Less than a quarter are ‘sponsored’ academies – schools that have been taken over by an academy chain.

The most up to date reports for 1 November 2012, show the total number of academies in England now stands at 2456.

No agreement on third tier role

September 26, 2012

The newly published LGiU report, ‘Should we shed the middle tier?’ was launched at an LGiU/NUT fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Conference on 25 September 2012.

The report, based on interviews with a selection of leading politicians, researchers and policy makers, showed general agreement that there needs to be something between schools and Westminster – which everyone is calling a third tier. There was no agreement, however, on is what the role of that third tier should be.

There was consensus that accountability and ensuring compliance with the code on admissions were functions that could not be carried out by schools or central government. There was also general agreement that local authorities already existed and were in a good place to carry out these roles – so there is no need to create a new body.

Most contributors agreed that school improvement was best delivered by schools working with other schools, not by a ‘third tier’. They emphasised, however, that strategic oversight and direction of local education should be independent of local schools.

One contributor, Jon Coles (Chief Executive Officer, United Learning Trust), argued that councils could only be a real provider of an independent accountability function once, as in housing, they no longer had a significant provision role. Interestingly enough, at a fringe meeting at the 2011 Liberal Democrat Conference, a similar view was expressed by David Laws (recently appointed Minister of State for Schools).

Will local authorities only step up to the mark and properly fulfil their role as the focus for democratic accountability and as the champions of their local community, if their responsibility as a provider of education is taken away from them?

Views of Headteachers and Chairs of Governors on the role of the LA

August 22, 2012

The increasing independence of schools as they move to academy status is just the latest stage in the journey of school autonomy which can trace its origins back many years through foundation schools, grant maintained schools, and local management of schools.

As more schools take advantage of increased autonomy and freedom from local government, inevitably, the relationship between schools and local authorities has to be redefined. Whilst politicians and local authority education officers are staking their claim to a place in the new world order, the voice of schools themselves seems often to be overlooked.

To explore the views of headteachers and chairs of governors, Mike, working with Diana Coman as ‘Tamarind Chambers’, carried out a survey by email questionnaire sent to a range of secondary schools across England between October 2011 and February 2012.

Survey results

The survey shows that schools value their increased autonomy and freedoms but recognise that, within clearly defined parameters, the local authority still has a role to play.

Two areas stood out as matters that schools did not see as a role for the local authority.

First, schools were clear on their wish to have control of the curriculum. The vast majority of Chairs and Headteachers said that local authorities should not have any control over the curriculum in schools, with just one respondent saying that the local authority should actually determine the curriculum.

The second highest ‘no’ vote was on the governing body – with over a third of respondents saying that the local authority should have no role in removing or replacing a governing body and nearly half saying that they should only be able to do so under certain conditions.

There was general agreement across schools on the local authority’s role in the provision for children with special educational needs. In their responses, most Chairs and Headteachers said that local authorities should continue to be responsible for assessing the special educational needs of individual pupils and for providing appropriate education to meet those assessed needs and controlling the funding.

The responses to some questions revealed contradictory views. For example whilst most respondents said that local authorities should have a role in planning and co-ordinating school places, there was less support for local authorities having specific powers to make changes to the size of a school or alter a school’s admissions decisions.

A clear majority of Chairs and Headteachers were against local authorities having the power to enter and inspect schools as they chose. However, a large proportion did think the local authority should be able to intervene in a failing school, albeit under certain conditions.

There was general agreement that local authorities should collect and report on data about schools in their area, and provide advice and support on school standards.

Whilst schools wish to guard their independence and ability to deliver education in the way they feel best for them, they also want someone to act as a ‘policeman’ or arbitrator to protect them from potentially damaging actions by another school.

Full report

The full data from the responses to the survey has been published in our report ‘The role of the local authority in education: Views of Headteachers and Chairs of Governors’, that can be found here.

The role of the Local Authority in education

May 16, 2012

Mike works with Diana Coman as ‘Tamarind Chambers’, promoting effectiveness and innovation in community involvement.

They carried out a survey amongst Headteachers and Chairs of Governors to gather their views on the role that Local Authorities should play in education.

The survey shows that schools value their increased autonomy and freedoms but recognise that, within clearly defined parameters, the Local Authority still has a role to play.

In their responses, Chairs and Headteachers said that Local Authorities should continue to be responsible for assessing the special educational needs of individual pupils and providing appropriate education to meet their assessed needs. By contrast, they said that Local Authorities should not have any control over the curriculum.

Further, a clear majority were against Local Authorities having the power to enter and inspect schools as they chose. However, there was general agreement that Local Authorities should collect and report on data about schools in their area.

The responses to some questions revealed contradictory views. For example whilst most respondents said that local authorities should have a role in planning and co-ordinating school places, there was less support for Local Authorities having specific powers to make changes to the size of a school or alter a school’s admissions decisions.

The survey was carried out by email questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent to Headteachers and Chairs of Governors of a range of secondary schools across England between October 2011 and February 2012. Responses were received from 80 schools.

The report gives an account of the responses and a detailed analysis of the answers to the questionnaire.