The Confederation of School Trusts, led by their able chief Executive, Leora Cruddas, don’t often rate a mention on this blog. However, their latest attempt to cut through the Gordian knot left by Michael Gove’s half completed reform of the school system in England does at least offer an opportunity for those interested in the matter to once again state their views and why they hold them?
As an elected Councillor, Deputy Chair of an Education Scrutiny Committee, and a long-time supporter of a school system with local democratic involvement, unlike the NHS where most decisions are driven either from Whitehall or by professionals, I might be thought to be miles apart from CST’s view: we shall see.
The CST introduction to their latest survey focuses on five key areas for their White Paper:
- One system – as opposed to the current “expensive and confusing” two-tier system, one of standalone schools maintained by local authorities and one of legally autonomous schools, many operating as part of a group or school trust
- Teacher professionalism – the CST is proposing to establish a body of knowledge which supports initial teacher education, induction and post-qualifying professional development
- Curriculum – the CST proposes that school trusts have clearly articulated education philosophies and harness the best evidence on curriculum design and implementation so that every pupil is able to access an ambitious curriculum
- Funding – the CST is today launching an online tool to help schools and school trusts strategically plan, and is also publishing a paper highlighting where strategic additional investment is needed
- Accountability – the CST believes there should be a single regulator and, separately, an independent inspectorate, each with clearly understand authority, decision-making powers, legitimacy and accountability
On the first bullet point, I would add that in my view is really 3 systems, with standalone academies and free schools being different to MAT/MACs.
Can Academies and Free schools be like the voluntary school sector of the past and MAT/MACs act like diocese in relation to local authorities?
How many organisations do we need? There are 150+ local authorities of varying sizes: how many do we need at that tier, 200, 250? Certainly not the wasteful and expensive arrangements that currently exist across the country. The fact that the government has had to clamp down on top salaries in MATs, this at a time when schools are strapped for cash, makes the point more eloquently that any diatribe about CEOs pay packets.
Pupil place planning and in-year admissions are key tasks needed in a properly managed system. Someone needs to guarantee children taken into care for their own safety and moved away from the parental home can secure a new school place quickly, and also ensure in-year admissions for pupils whose parents move home are not left for long periods of time without a school place, especially if they have special needs and an EHCP.
Perhaps a national fund to help ensure rapid transfers for pupils with an EHC plan or needing SEN support might help. Local Authorities could draw on the fund without it affecting their High Needs block funding.
The CST also needs to reflect how school transport is to be managed in any changed system.
On teacher professionalism, will the CST support my view on the need for QTS to be defined more closely than anyone with QTS can teach anything to any pupil in any type of school?
If you are interested in the governance of our school system as it approaches its 150th anniversary year, do please visit https://cstuk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Future-shape-white-paper-call-for-evidence-June-2019.pdf and complete the CST survey.