Lord Nash, parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools, writes:
The academies programme has come a long way in four short years.
In May 2010 there were just 203 academies, all sponsored, all secondary and most in London.
We have accelerated that programme massively so that hundreds of thousands more pupils benefit – we enabled primary schools to become academies, we brought brilliant sponsors in to turn around under-performing local authority schools and we allowed many more heads to convert. There are now more than 4,000 across the country, including free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools, illustrating the popularity of allowing schools greater freedom from local authority control.
This has also led to big improvements, with results in sponsored academies going up faster than local authority schools. Sponsored academies that have been open for three years have improved by 12 per cent since opening, compared to a 6 per cent increase in local authority maintained schools over the same period. We have also seen how converter academies are more likely to achieve or retain good or outstanding ratings than local authority maintained schools against the new tougher Ofsted framework.
Now that academies are established and are rapidly becoming the norm – for instance, well over half of all secondary schools are academies – we have introduced local support and oversight for schools in the form of eight Regional Schools Commissioners.
The commissioners, all experienced education leaders, will monitor performance, take decisions on new academies and intervene when they are struggling. People like Sir David Carter, the chief executive of the Cabot Learning Federation in the South West, and Janet Renou, the executive head teacher of Skipton Girls’ School who will look after the North of England region, are hugely respected figures who will oversee the education of thousands of children across their area. We are fortunate to be able to count on such excellence.
This is a natural evolution of the academies programme, ensuring outstanding leaders in education are able to take the lead at a local level – doing away with interference from politicians and bureaucrats.
The next step is to ensure that commissioners are supported by other top headteachers who will use their experience and local knowledge to challenge and advise them.
These heads will make up the regional Head Teacher Boards, of between six and probably eight members in each region. Four of these members will be elected by their peers. This will be a vital election to determine which heads help shape the future of the academy system in each region.
Head Teacher Boards, working with their respective regional schools commissioner, will become a cornerstone of our school system, helping to preserve the freedoms and flexibilities that academy status offers. In short, they will allow academies to deliver exceptional education to children across the country.
The elected members will be drawn from a rich pool – current heads or executive heads of outstanding academies; heads or executive heads from academies rated good but with outstanding leadership and management; or recent academy headteachers or executive heads who met the criteria at the time of their departure.
If you are a headteacher of an academy, I urge you to vote. If you are eligible to join a board, please consider nominating yourself for election before 13 June.
Voting will start on 23 June and will close on 11 July, so make sure to cast your vote.
Our reforms are designed to take power away from central control, whether local or national, and give it to the heads and teachers who are experts in education. Head Teacher Boards will do just that – so please help ensure they are a success.
More information about the nomination process and voting can be found at www.votebyinternet.com/HTBelections.