The government has started publishing draft agendas for the controversial committees that help decide the fate of thousands of schools across the country.
Headteacher boards (HTBs) were set up in 2014 by the Department for Education (DfE) to advise the eight regional schools commissioners (RSCs).
They help make decisions about whether schools become academies, who runs them, what happens to struggling schools, and even whether schools should be closed down.
However, they have been mired in controversy about the secrecy surrounding their work, and Tes has highlighted the failure of the DfE to publish detailed records of their meetings, and the wealth of information about their work that is denied to the public.
Now, the DfE has for the first time published draft agendas of HTB meetings before they are held.
However, the DfE is still not publishing the voluminous background papers that outline the reasons underpinning HTB and RSC decisions.
This was something that in September 2017 Sir David Carter, who at the time oversaw the academy system as national schools commissioner, told Tes he was open to.
The draft agendas, which were released ahead of this month’s cycle of meetings, include the names of schools and academy trusts due to be discussed, and the nature of the decision being debated.
They also include an email address that people can use for queries relating to items on the agenda.
For example, the draft agenda for this month’s East of England and North-East London HTB shows that its items for discussion included:
- Whether to issue an academy order to North Beckton Primary School in Newham, allowing it to convert to academy status and join the Tapscott Learning Trust;
- Whether to allow William Torbit Primary School in Redbridge to join the EKO Trust as a sponsored academy;
- Whether to approve an application for the South Suffolk Learning Trust to become an academy sponsor;
- Whether Dycorts School in Havering should be allowed to extend its age range from four to 16 to two to 19, add a sixth form and change its SEN designation.
The decision to publish the draft agendas follows a pledge by education secretary Damian Hinds in May to increase transparency in the RSC and HTB system.
A DfE policy document stated: "We will make available records of their discussions, and advance notification of which schools they are discussing, in order to make the system more transparent.”
The move comes after the South-East England and South London HTB, which advises Dominic Herrington, who is the interim national schools commissioner as well as the region’s RSC, became the first to start publishing more detailed records of its meetings.