Gavin Williamson addressed the Confederation of School Trusts Annual Conference on 28th April and outlined a renewed vision for all schools to be part of a multi-academy trust. Addressing Trust leaders from across the country the Secretary of State for Education said he wanted to work towards a ‘single model’ school system and ‘announced’, not for the first time, a trial scheme to allow schools to link with academy chains and ‘try before they buy’ before becoming permanent members of a Trust.
All schools in England ‘should become academies’ in a bid to end the current ‘pick and mix’ system, as the Education Secretary believed the pandemic has shown that it is ‘no longer viable for schools to be single entities’ as they need the ‘safety net of a strong family’. This mirrored the messages of former National Schools Commissioner Sir David Carter at a Schools North East roundtable yesterday, where he outlined his thoughts that formal collaboration was the best and only way for the school system to recover and move forward from Covid.
In his speech, Mr Williamson said he wanted to work towards a ‘single model’ school system where 100 per cent of pupils across the country are taught in academies. Mr Williamson stated that over 50 per cent of pupils in state-funded education now study in academies. However, he felt that strong multi academy trusts are the best structure to enable schools and teachers to deliver consistently good outcomes for all their pupils.
However, it is far from clear if additional money will be available to enable large numbers of maintained schools to convert to academy status and join existing Trusts. This was partially acknowledged by the Secretary of State when he also announced that, during the summer term, the government will be undertaking research and speaking to school leaders, taking on board what they tell them, to make the process of joining a multi academy trust as cost effective and easy as possible.
Mr Williamson told the CST Conference this move is not about ideology, rather it is about the ambition for more schools to benefit from being part of a strong family because he believes multi-academy trusts are the best way to advance education for the public benefit and deliver clear benefits for teaching and pupil outcomes. However, with the numbers and complexity of the issues facing our schools as we move beyond the pandemic, it is far from clear that schools will have the appetite for significant structural upheaval at this time.
Schools North East believes that schools are crucial strategic infrastructure and need to be properly protected and supported as such. At this difficult time it may be more relevant than any structural changes focus on ones that enable additional support services, such as CAMHS, to function and collaborate more effectively with schools to directly benefit students. Schools North East would like to hear how these changes could affect you whether you are an existing MAT or a single school who may be required to join a trust. Please get in touch and share your thoughts.