Middle tier of academy regulation to be introduced

The new Schools Commissioner Frank Green has published a letter to academies that confirms that the Government will be introducing a long-awaited “middle tier” of academy regulation. The proposals align with those leaked to the Guardian earlier this year about the introduction of elected Headteacher Boards (HTBs), which will work alongside soon-to-be-appointed Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs).

In his first major announcement, Frank Green explained that to shift in responsibility for academy regulation to the a regional level, with more involvement by schools, the Government will be appointing eight RSCs. Green acknowledged that within government and the education sector there is a growing consensus that decision making should lie closer to academies and that those who have a track record of leading good schools should have a stronger role in shaping the system.

Green explained that the RSC will be able to make key decisions about academies on behalf of the Secretary of State, bringing their expertise and local knowledge into the decision making process. However, this change will not cut across existing accountability lines, which will remain with the Secretary of State.

The role of the RSCs will include the following functions:

  •  Monitoring performance and prescribing intervention to secure improvement in underperforming academies and free schools.
  • Taking decisions on the creation of new academies and making recommendations to ministers about free school applications.
  • Ensuring that there are enough high-quality sponsors to meet local need.
  • Taking decisions on changes to open academies, including changes to age ranges, mergers and changes to multi-academy trust arrangements, as well as changes to admission arrangements.

Each RSC will be advised by a HTB made up of headteachers from academies rated as outstanding by Ofsted or with recent experience. The majority of these headteachers will be elected to the position by other academy headteachers in their region, and they will be expected to dedicate half a day to a day per week to support and challenge the work of the RSC.

Individual RSCs will decide exactly how to use their HTBs within the parameters set by the Secretary of State, and in discussion with their individual HTB members. HTBs will work with the RSC to prioritise the issues in each region and the RSC will consult them on the key decisions they make for their region.

To determine the membership of each HTB, there will be elections in each region during the summer term. Members of the HTB will be current headteachers of outstanding individual academies, or recent ex-heads (within the last two years) of academies which were rated outstanding at the time they left their headship. All academy headteachers in each region will be eligible to vote. Where there is more than one head per school, for example where there is a head and a principal, it is for the academy to decide who casts the vote.

Green is due to confirm further detail about RSC and HTBs, including the election process later this spring. PSI will monitor for developments.