Exclusive: School autonomy group wants to become the voice for academies

Fasna's strategy comes as high-profile academy CEOs plan to create formal group to represent academy leaders

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An organisation that campaigns for school autonomy is seeking to transform itself into a trade association to lobby on behalf of the academy sector.

There are currently 2,700 academy trusts, ranging in size from one school to more than 60, but there are concerns that the DfE often consults only a limited number of favoured organisations.

Now Fasna – the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association, which traces its origins back to 1992 – wants to become an organisation that can speak on behalf of the whole sector.

Leora Cruddas, who took over as its chief executive in September, told Tes that academies and academy trusts are diverse and as a sector lack a way of speaking to the government with authority.

She said: “I want a re-positioned, re-shaped Fasna to be that body that the ministers call in when they want to understand what the newly autonomous sector wants, how it feels, how it wants to influence and shape policy, and also let’s face it to advocate for that sector.

“No-one is advocating for that sector at the moment. It’s very beaten, isn’t it?”

She has three aims for Fasna: to advocate for the sector, to influence policy, and to provide services.

Her plans for Fasna come as an informal network of 20 to 30 leaders of some of the biggest academy trusts plan to create a new body to represent academy trust leaders.

Known as the Queen Street Group, it met once a term during 2016-17.

Ms Cruddas told Tes she was talking to the group about the future aims of both organisationss.

She described the Queen Street Group as “a loose group of CEOs who meet fairly regularly who certainly speak to government, but they don’t represent the sector because they are not a membership organisation that anybody can join".

She added: “They might have aspirations to be the sector body, in which case that would be directly in competition with what I want to achieve. I don’t know if they do.

“Ideally, as we develop our conversations going forward, we would talk about at least a confluence of speaking together, if not some deeper relationship.”

This is an edited article from the 2 March edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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