A scant four pages of published minutes record the meeting of the south-east England and south London Headteacher Board on 13 October last year.
But anyone who wanted to know why their school became an academy, how the organisation that would run it was selected or, in some cases, whether the future of their school was being discussed, would instead have to look at the 118 pages of background papers.
The problem is that while the minutes are published, the background papers are not.
To obtain those papers, Tes had to turn to freedom of information laws. The documents that were eventually released, while heavily redacted, show just how much information the published minutes leave out.
For example, the minutes only say that there was “a discussion about potential changes to the governance arrangements at the Hamwic Academy Trust”. But the six pages of board papers show that Hamwic was an “umbrella” trust that oversaw four separate academy trusts, with a total of 15 schools. The trust had to change how it operated after the government encouraged umbrella trusts to become multi-academy trusts, and the papers set out two options for its future.
Both options have been completely redacted by the DfE from the board papers and neither of them are disclosed in the minutes.
The minutes also say that there was a discussion about “the University of Brighton Academy Trust’s proposal to establish a new hub”. But without the three-page briefing note seen by HTB members, the reader would not know that this could have seen Overton Grange in Sutton, a school with 1,200 pupils, giving up its status as a standalone academy and joining the university’s organisation.
The minutes also say that an application for three Portsmouth schools to form a new academy trust was approved, with discussion points including “proximity of the schools” and “links to teaching school alliance”. But lengthy and important details included in the 11-page background paper are missing.
They include the rationale behind the move, the credentials of the key people involved, the financial health of each school, and how much money the new trust would “top slice” from each school’s budget.
The papers also reveal items that appeared on the unpublished agenda, but are not explicitly recorded in the published minutes.
These include the pros and cons of two potential sponsors for Aldershot Primary, which was due to open in September 2018, after the original sponsor, the University of Chichester Academy Trust, dropped out.
Even the seven-page discussion, as released, was redacted, with the some of the pros and all of the cons for both Surrey Heath Education Trust and the Engage, Enrich, Excel Academy Trust blacked out.
The background papers also include a discussion about the future of St Stephen’s Primary in Tonbridge, which was about to be put in special measures, and two potential sponsors, which did not appear in the minutes.