Today’s debate about school autonomy may be dominated by academies – created by New Labour and expanded by Michael Gove – but 1988 represents a much earlier milestone in the journey.
It was the year of the Education Reform Act, which ushered in grant-maintained schools, which moved out of the sphere of local authorities and were funded directly by the government.
Fasna (Freedom and Autonomy for Schools – National Association) traces its origins back to this era, and the creation of the Association of Head Teachers of Grant-Maintained Schools (AHTGMS) in 1992, to secure existing freedoms and then press for more.
The AHTGMS protested when the incoming Labour government announced the abolition of grant-maintained status in 1997, and welcomed the creation of foundation status for schools the following year, which allowed the retention of a degree of independence.
Fasna highlights the work of its predecessors briefing Tony Blair about school autonomy, as well as advising Labour education secretaries.
In 2004, an alphabet soup of organisations supporting foundation and voluntary-aided schools merged with AHTGMS, creating today’s Fasna.
Describing itself as “strictly apolitical”, it supported schools seeking to take advantage of the coalition government’s massive expansion of the academy programme.
Until now, it has been an influential – if publicity-shy – organisation, attracting ministers to address its behind-closed-doors conferences. While the commitment to the cause of school autonomy remains, the appointment of Leora Cruddas as chief executive may signal its evolution into a more outward-focused trade association for the whole academy sector.