Headteachers have called for the DfE’s overhaul of school accountability to be extended to scrapping the compulsory academisation of school that are rated “inadequate”.
Damian Hinds today announced that the bottom Ofsted rating will now be the only trigger for forced academy conversion.
The DfE will consult on replacing the current floor and coasting designations – which are based solely on GCSE and Sats results – with a new single measure, which will be used to trigger an offer of help rather than forced structural change.
However, the forced academisation will remain a legal requirement when non-academies are rated “inadequate”, and the education secretary will today tell the NAHT heads' union that where children “are being let down we need to take action quickly – so no one ends up left behind”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the introduction of a single measure of school performance, and the announcement that regional schools commissioners will no longer duplicate the inspection work of Ofsted.
However, he called for the legal requirement, put into law in 2016, that all schools judged “inadequate” to become academies to be scrapped.
The said: “We are concerned that the department intends to persist with the policy of forcing schools which are judged to be inadequate to become academies. There is no evidence that forced academisation in itself improves performance.
“It is also obvious that there is not sufficient capacity within the system to find enough sponsors for these schools. As a result, many are left for far too long in a state of limbo as ‘orphan schools’ unsure of their future.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said more than 7,000 schools have become academies since 2010.
He added: “Between 2010 and December 2017 we opened 1,700 sponsored academies that replaced local authority maintained schools. Only around one in 10 of these were good or outstanding before they converted, compared to almost seven in 10 after they became an academy.”
Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman welcomed the DfE’s announcement that regional schools commissioners would no longer carry out shadow inspections of schools.
She said: "Confusion about different roles and responsibilities has been a distraction for schools and has increased teacher workload unnecessarily.
"Today's announcement brings much-needed clarity and simplicity to the system. It sends a very clear message that Ofsted is the only body that can make an informed and independent judgement about a school's performance."
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association (Fasna), welcomed steps to give school leaders greater freedom to lead improvement in their schools and trusts.
She said: “This is a welcome first step towards more coherent governance of the system.
“It puts the self-improving school system back in the driving seat. And the sector must now step up and lead the reform necessary to drive system improvements.
“Deep and sustained reform of our education system will not come from government. It depends on us – the leaders of the system.”
And Melanie Renowden, deputy chief executive of Ambition School Leadership, said it was “particularly encouraging to see increased efforts to direct resources to the schools that need the greatest support and to give school leaders above the threshold the freedom to do the best for their schools”.