Motion passed on 12th September 2018
This Council Notes:-
- Bury schools have demonstrated a good track record of delivering education within the local authority and have not chosen or moved to the Academy model or alternative forms of governance at the rate of other Local Authority areas.
- An increasingly high volume of schools in Bury previously judged by Ofsted as good or outstanding several years go under a different inspection framework are now being downgraded in their new inspection. There are a high proportion of such ‘legacy’ schools, and a number at significant risk of being judged as inadequate.
- The findings for the SEND inspection in June 2017 have put Bury schools under additional focus from Ofsted
- Ofsted’s annual risk assessment of school performance and standards data and specifically in relation to pupils’ achievement, exclusions and attendance, groups of pupils particularly those with SEND, the most able, and disadvantaged groups, places a high number of Bury schools at risk of inspection quicker than might normally be expected.
- School leaders and governors are now expected to source their own school improvement services and solutions. Schools and council school improvement services are currently under financial pressure due to cuts from central government.
- Government policy on forced academisation has recently changed – schools that are judged to be requiring improvement by Ofsted will no longer be given an academy order. This will now only apply to schools rated as inadequate.
- Academisation is an irreversible process. Once a school becomes an Academy, there is currently no mechanism to return the school to local authority control.
- There is a legal obligation to consult with appropriate stakeholders in the case of voluntary conversions. DfE guidance states “Your governing body must consult formally about your school’s plans to become an academy with anyone who has an interest in your school. This will include staff members and parents, but you should also involve pupils and the wider community.”
- Bury Council recognises a number of trade unions as representatives of staff in education sector.
This Council Believes:-
- The Council should focus on strengthening the governance of all schools in Bury.
- The Council will approach schools before “they fail” to try and determine the best form of governance going forward, through annual risk assessment processes conducted by Council officers.
- There will be a focus on finding a local solution for schools that need additional support that will take in to account what is best for the young people of Bury.
- Academisation is one option but not the only option to the many challenges faced by Bury schools leaders. The LA will be proactive in working with governors to explore what the best solutions might be for individual schools, and particularly those ‘at risk’ where standards have declined or in decline.
- Any change in the governance of schools needs to be done in full consultation with parents, pupils and staff.
- To that end, there should be full and meaningful consultation that fully engages parents, staff and their recognised trade unions, pupils, feeder schools, the local authority and other members of the community and allows them the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument and express their views.
- That other options such as a local federation with other Bury schools should be actively considered by governors before academisation with an external academy chain.
- Trade unions that are recognised by the local authority as representatives of staff should be involved at every stage of any consultation process.
- The Council will co-produce with schools a policy that sets out what good consultation should involve when a change of governance is being explored.
This Council Resolves:-
- To publish a Bury Council Policy for voluntary conversions including but not limited to:-
- Discussions must take place with both the local authority and union representatives at the earliest possible moment in the governors’ considerations.
- Where a governing body does decide it would like to formally consider alternative governance arrangements, a timetable for consultation and a consultation document with a clear rationale and evidence for how the preferred option will result in school improvement and higher educational attainment should be provided before the consultation can begin.
- Where the governors have identified that they would like to join an existing academy trust the consultation document should include the criteria and assessment applied by the governing body to measure their preferred academy trust against other academy trusts considered, to ensure a rigorous due diligence exercise is completed. Comparison should be made in similar terms to local authority control.
- During consultation, Governors should remain impartial when sending written materials to parents or posting information on the school website about an academy conversion; they should ensure the case against academy status should be given equal prominence and the same weight as any arguments in favour.
- The school should organise stakeholder consultation meetings where speakers both for and against conversion can make their case and where parents, staff and others can ask questions and receive answers and full feedback.
- The timing of consultation meetings should facilitate attendance by the widest possible number of interested parties. This could also mean taking into account days of religious worship.
- Parents who do not speak English as a first language should be provided a version of the consultation document in their first language.
- The school should also consider holding a ballot of key stakeholders before taking any decision on academy conversion.
- Where the local authority is not satisfied with the consultation, it will organise such a ballot. It will actively consider this option if concerns are raised by recognised trade unions or any notable number of staff or parents.
- To communicate this Policy to all headteachers, school governors, academy chains that already have a presence in Bury, and any academy chain that expresses an interest in Bury schools.
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