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Exclusive: Career civil servants could head academies system

School leaders may be phased out of regional schools commissioner role under changes, which could also see RSCs take over teacher recruitment

 Career civil servants could head academies system

The DfE is planning changes to the system that oversees academies which could lead to career civil servants rather than former school leaders overseeing thousands of schools, Tes can reveal.

It is understood that the proposals could also see the offices of the eight regional schools commissioners (RSCs) beefed up and given a greater role in areas such as teacher recruitment.

The DfE said the reforms, which have yet to be publicly announced, amounted to “operational changes” rather than changes to policy.


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RSCs oversee and make decisions about academies and struggling non-academies in their regions, and re-broker academies between academy trusts.

Tes has been told that the changes could see the RSC role become a traditional civil service position filled by career civil servants.

Since the role was created in 2014, many of the RSCs have been former school leaders who joined the civil service when they took the job, and left it when they stopped being RSCs.

A DfE spokesperson said: “To help schools, academy trusts and local authorities work with regional schools commissioners and their teams we will be making some operational changes in the coming months – but this does not amount to a change in policy.

“The changes will streamline the work teams across the country to create an even more joined-up team.”

She added that details of the changes would be announced “soon”.

Education secretary Damian Hinds told Tes that the RSCs “play a very important role when there needs to be a transition of a school from one trust to another, and I think that will continue to be an important role”.

When pressed about plans to reform the RSC system last week he told Tes: “It wouldn’t be right for me to comment on staff positions and organisational matters. What I can say is the schools commissioner function and role remains important.”

The remit of RSCs expanded after they were first established, and there were concerns that some of their work duplicated that of Ofsted, creating extra workload for schools.

Last year Mr Hinds reduced their power to force schools to become academies, and made it clear that only Ofsted can inspect schools.

Duncan Baldwin, deputy director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, told Tes: “We would welcome any change in the organisation and remit of regional schools commissioners which provides a greater breadth of support for all schools, particularly around teacher recruitment challenges, and which further helps to avoid any overlap between their work and that of Ofsted.”

Since 2014, there have been concerns about the turnover of RSCs, and perceived conflicts of interest for them and members of their headteacher boards.

Earlier this week, it emerged that the DfE has been using 10 different IT systems to oversee and manage more than 7,000 academies and free schools.

 

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