Influential school regulators called ‘chancellors’ are to be appointed by Michael Gove to oversee academies and free schools, with the power to seize control of those recognised to be failing.
According to internal Department for Education (DfE) documents, the plan will see England split into eight geographical regions separate from local councils, with the free schools and academies in each region supervised by a new body, called a Headteacher Board (HTB) and headed by a ‘chancellor’.
The new system, similar to the model used for schools governance in the US, will create an intermediary between individual schools and the DfE to help the department cope with overseeing the rising number of academies and free schools.
Setbacks to the free schools programme include the Discovery primary school in Crawley, West Sussex, which was criticised in a damning report by Ofsted into its school leadership, and the Al-Madinah free school in Derby, which is being threatened with closure after being accused of financial mismanagement and inadequate teaching.
Since 2010, almost 3500 schools, including more than half of all secondary schools, have taken on academy or free school status, which allows them to operate largely outside of the supervision of local education authorities.
The new school boards would be made up of a chancellor appointed by the DfE and six members, who would be the head teachers of successful local academies and free schools, elected by the heads of all the schools in the region. The chancellors and boards would be granted powers delegated by the secretary of state, allowing them to investigate and change the sponsors and management of failing academies or free schools.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, commented: “Opinion is pretty united on the fact that there ought to be something between schools and the secretary of state. The idea that we should have some organisation with local knowledge and insight operating between the two is right, but we need to know the detail.”
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