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Government advertises for £140k-a-year commissioners to oversee academies and free schools

New regulators to be appointed by Michael Gove to oversee free schools and academies will be paid between £100,000 and £140,000 a year.

The Department for Education (DfE) has placed an advertisement in today’s TES for new regional schools commissioners, who will have strategic oversight of eight English education regions, with powers to seize control of failing schools.

The six-figure salaries on offer will add to the controversy over the decision to appoint the new regulators, with critics claiming that the new roles will merely duplicate the work once carried out by local authorities.

However, DfE officials have been at pains to point out that the new commissioners will not become an “added layer of bureaucracy”, stating further that the roles should not be seen as the creation of a so-called “middle tier”.

The education secretary’s plan to create the new position of regional regulators emerged last month in leaked DfE documents. The memos said that up to 200 department jobs may be cut to pay for the regional posts.

The commissioners will be able to draw upon the expertise of five or six “outstanding heads”,  elected by their peers, the advert says.  

The news comes as the free-schools programme, introduced by the government in 2010, has been dogged by controversy.

The Al-Madinah free school in Derby has been threatened with closure for alleged financial mismanagement and inadequate teaching. The Kings Science Academy in Bradford is at the centre of fraud allegations and in Crawley, West Sussex, the leadership at Discovery primary school was heavily criticised in an Ofsted report.

While the TES advertisement for the regional schools commissioner jobs does not mention the salary, a department spokesman said it would be “between £100,000 and £140,000”.

According to Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads’ union the NAHT, the salaries on offer for the new position was greater than what more than “90 per cent” of headteachers earn, adding that £140,000 is more than three times that of an average primary head.

While Mr Hobby supported the creation of a middle tier, he questioned why there was an “unseemly rush” by the government to establish one.

“There is a serious risk that [ministers] haven’t thought this through, particularly at a time when we are creating competing middle tiers in the shape of Ofsted’s regional structure, local authorities and now this,” Mr Hobby said.

“For example, how will they manage the potential of conflict of interests that will occur among the boards of headteachers if a new academy is to be opened near their own school? The system is more complicated than it looks.”

The advert says that the commissioners will be at the forefront of “one of the most ambitious education reform programmes in the world”, which will create “a world-class education system”.

They will exercise “the existing powers of the Department for Education" and “will take the decisions currently taken by the Secretary of State”.

Nearly 3,500 schools, including half of all secondary schools, have become academies or free schools that operate mostly outside of local authority control, with powers to choose the curriculum and set teachers’ pay and conditions.

The commissioners will have powers to investigate and change the sponsors and management of failing schools. They are not expected to be appointed until the summer.


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