DfE officials are “increasingly” asking academy trusts whether they plan to merge with other trusts in the future, a forum has heard.
Martin Post, one of the eight regional schools commissioners (RSCs) who oversee academies, told a Westminster Education Forum event yesterday that they “want to make sure we are in better touch with our multi-academy trusts”.
Mr Post, who is RSC for North-West London and South-Central England, said he aims to hold meetings with “200 or more” academy trusts this year.
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He outlined a series of areas that are discussed at these meetings, saying: “We ask about growth, of course.
“Increasingly, we are talking about mergers, because increasingly that’s a discussion that small, medium-sized trusts are thinking about.”
He added that “planning for different structures three or five years down the line is all part of considering the counter-factual position of where you are”.
The RSC, whose term of office comes to an end this year, said feedback from meetings across the country had highlighted concerns about how the RSC system is operating.
He said: “I think what it’s pointing to is we need to improve our consistency in dealing with cross-regional MATs – those of you who have the misfortune to sit across several RSC regions. We are trying to make it better.”
Mr Post told the event that RSCs were also scrutinising academy trusts that only have a narrow range of people on their boards.
“We do ask about diversity,” he said.
“Not usually as an inevitable question, but when we see, as we do sometimes, an all-male board, or we see a board that is largely representative of one school, we will ask questions about where they get their diversity from, where is that connection with their community of schools, their wider community of parents.”
Mr Post said that the RSCs are also raising complaints that they have received about academy trusts.
He added: “I do encourage local authorities and MPs to come to me and say when they have got a problem with a particular trust, because through me or the [Education and Skills Funding Agency] we can raise that with the trust and we can reflect back the trust’s view is of that particular issue”.