3 Trust schools |
45. Although Trust schools were not proposed in the
Five Year Strategy or in the Labour Party manifesto, foundation
schools with similar powers were discussed in the Five Year Strategy.
They now appear to be central to the Government's strategy for
the development of the school system.
46. The White Paper says that
"To spread innovation and diversity across the
whole school system, we will promote the establishment of self-governing
Trusts will be not-for-profit organisations,
able to appoint governors to the school, including where the
Trust wishes the majority of the governing body, as in existing
voluntary aided schools. The governing body, which can be as small
as 11 members, will also include elected parents, staff governors
and representatives from the local authority and the local community
The governing body of any existing primary or secondary school
will be able to create its own Trust, or link its school with
an existing Trust."
47. Trusts will also enjoy the freedoms that foundation
schools currently have:
"As well as the drive and direction brought
to the school by Trust-appointed governors, Trust schools will
have the freedoms and flexibilities that self-governing (Foundation)
schools currently enjoy. They will employ their own staff, control
their own assets and set their own admissions arrangements. Trusts
will also be able to apply to the Secretary of State for additional
flexibilities: any granted in this way will apply across all of
the schools supported by the Trust. This could include additional
curriculum flexibilities and freedoms over pay and conditions,
where the Trust can demonstrate that these will raise standards."
Although Trust schools are promoted in the White
Paper as a radical innovation in school governance, it is important
to note that these freedoms and flexibilities are already available
to schools under the power to innovate under section 2 of the
Education Act 2002.
48. These then are the Government's plans and aspirations
for Trust schools and, as we also discussed in the introduction,
there are many who have concerns about them. Some of those concerns
- An increase in the number of
schools which act as their own admissions authorities will lead
to more schools choosing their pupils, which in turn will result
in children from poorer backgrounds finding it harder, not easier,
to gain entry to the best performing schools, reinforcing rather
than reducing social segregation.
- Outside bodies which form Trusts may act in ways
which are considered undesirable, by disposing of school assets
or insisting on subjects being taught in a particular way, without
any effective means of dissuading or preventing such behaviour.
- Giving schools more independence may discourage
them from collaborating with others, creating a series of individual
schools rather than a school system.
- All new schools will in future be Academies,
Foundation schools or Trusts. There will be no new community schools.
- The office of Schools Commissioner, as proposed
in the White Paper to act as "a national champion for the
development of Trust schools",
may be used to coerce reluctant schools to become Trust schools.
49. The Government says that it is pursuing this
route because of the success of specialist schools and academies,
which it argues derives from their independence and the positive
effect of external partnerships. The evidence in support of that
claim is certainly not clear. Our predecessors, in their report
on diversity of school provision in 2003, commented that:
"..we have tried to establish the extent to
which the impact of the specialist schools programme, the process
of application and designation together with the creation of a
subject focus within a school, can be distinguished from the effect
of the significant injection of cash that follows designation
together with the recurrent specialist premium on per pupil funding.
the specialist schools programme cost £145.3m. Specialist
schools receive a capital grant of £100,000 to add to the
£50,000 raised through sponsorship and an additional £123
per student per annum.
"Given the scale of this additional investment
it was therefore a surprise to us to learn that no evaluation
has taken place on this aspect of the programme. The effect of
this investment is important because it may be that it is the
process leading to designation, rather than the funding or the
specialist focus, that is the key to school improvement."
50. There are conflicting views and a lack of compelling
research evidence on whether sponsorship of schools is directly
responsible for the raising of standards. One witness who had
experience of working with a trust considered that it brought
real advantages. Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, Chief Executive,
Haberdashers' Aske's Foundation told us:
"We have two schools within our trust. I have
always had a trust. What it gives schools is the Haberdashers'
brand, it gives enormous experience from my trustees and my governors,
and it enables us to leverage on their experience. It is a real
benefit to our schools within the trust to have the Haberdashers
The evidence of achievement is also limited for academies,
because of the small number that are as yet up and running, and
because pupils taking GCSEs in Academies so far will have spent
most of their secondary education in other schools. No causal
link has been demonstrated between external partners and the success
of a school, or between the independence of a school from local
authority control and its success.
51. We asked the Secretary of State whether evidence
from the United States on Charter schools had informed the White
Paper, and she told us "Absolutely not".
The Minister of State told us that "the key point about this
White Paper is that it is grown in this country and it has grown
from our experience."
We find it surprising that the Government has not drawn on the
experience of Charter schools, as they came about from parental
involvement with the aim of raising attainment, which obviously
has parallels with trust schools and other proposals in the White
52. On the basis of the evidence we have received
it appears that there is no widespread enthusiasm for Trust schools.
John Dunford of SHA told us that "if the proposal for trust
schools does not appear in the Bill, there will be no tears shed
in secondary schools amongst secondary school leaders."
Gillian Windass of the National Governors' Council said that
"We do have concerns that much of the document
has very little evidence in terms of the idea that every school
would wish to become self-governing or become a trust school and
that this would improve teaching and learning. There is no evidence
provided in the document to substantiate that fact. Trust schools
would not necessarily improve things and they would definitely
reduce the elected parental representation on the governing body
where in the rest of the document we are talking about increasing
Professor Adams of the National Association of School
Governors said that "My guess is there will not be any dramatic
changes as a result of this. One or two individual schools, of
course, in particular circumstances but I do not think it will
be a seismic shock to school governing bodies around the country".
53. Dr Mary Bousted of the ATL spoke for many critics
of the Trust schools proposal when she said:
"We think [the Government's] proposal for trust
schools and the idea that trusts will spread good practice is
Government doing what it said it would not do in 1997, which is
becoming too interested in structures rather than standards.
We cannot answer the question how trust schools are going to affect
the learning opportunities for pupils. We cannot answer the question
how trusts are going to deliver a better 14-19 curriculum for
pupils. And we are concerned that many of the very, very supportive
and strong commitments to social justice, the ideas in the White
Paper, are undermined by the belief that a quasi-market will improve
delivery of education."
Some witnesses appeared inconsistent on this issue.
They doubted whether Trust schools would bring change, but opposed
54. It also seems that there may be difficulties
in finding external organisations which are willing to form Trusts
and support schools. Press reports indicate that few firms which
act as sponsors for specialist schools and academies have an interest
in establishing Trust schools. Dame Mary Richardson, chief executive
of the HSBC education trust which sponsors more than 100 schools
across the country, is quoted as saying "The trusts are a
good opportunity for universities and for livery companies, but
I do not think that a bank has the right educational expertise".
It is also reported that of the seven organisations explicitly
mentioned by the DfES as helping develop the Trust school initiative
at least three have said they do not plan to set up Trust schools
55. When we put this problem to the Secretary of
State she answered in part by saying that the Department was currently
working with "a lot" of universities, although she considered
that it would be inappropriate to name them at that stage.
In her speech to the North of England Education Conference on
6 January she was prepared to name threeExeter, West of
England and Portsmouthand
we will be interested to see whether others will come forward.
We recommend that the Government should publish a list of bodies
it considers appropriate to act as Trust sponsors. It should also
publish details of those organisations which have been approved
by the DfES.
56. One witness who spoke strongly in favour of Trusts
was Dr Melvyn Kershaw, head teacher of Haybridge High School at
Hagley in Worcestershire. He told us:
"My school is a high-performing specialist school.
We have other nearby schools with which we work as a collaborative.
We are working as closely as possible to plan a common timetable
in a couple of years' time and to employ a development officer
jointly, but to take those next steps we need a stronger framework
that will help us to move forward and the trust framework would
be ideal for us. If we could have some sort of trust it would
appoint governing bodies for our collaborating schools and I think
it would form a body that would have considerable strength to
move forward, that would take over lots of functions that we now
do separately and do them together and plan our future jointly.
There would be an attitudinal change amongst us. I must say
my colleagues over a range of schools, two in very challenging
areas, one special school, were all very keen on taking those
next steps. It is quite difficult to do that now. It depends
upon us sitting round and talking as headteachers whereas we would
rather like a little more structure."
57. This model of a federation or collaborative group
of schools coming together to form a Trust appears to us to be
more likely to have an attraction than having a Trust for an individual
school. Indeed both in the White Paper
and in the Trust Schools Prospectus there is considerable emphasis
on Trusts bringing schools together or operating as a group. We
believe it is essential that Trusts do operate in a collaborative
fashion and that Government embeds in any legislation requirements
for this to be monitored at local and national level. We
make specific recommendations elsewhere for mechanisms to effect
this. The prospectus says that Trusts will enjoy the benefits
of collaboration "in a much simpler, more sustainable way".
It does not offer any hard examples of how it will be simpler,
although it does speak of economies of scale and efficiencies
in administration, finance and purchasing.
58. There are a range of issues here. The White Paper
says that "the governing body would first consult parents"
if it wishes to join or form a Trust, but which parents? Those
of children currently at the school? Those of children who might
go to the school over the next two or three years? Or all parents/residents
of the local authority area? The local authority can object to
the adjudicator if it considers the governing body has not taken
account of the view of the majority of parents, but what about
on other grounds in relation to school provision in the area?
If, for example, a school which is not a faith school joined a
faith-based Trust in an area which already has a significant number
of church schools, that would impact on the authority's duty to
promote choice and diversity, so would it not be reasonable to
allow an objection on those grounds? If schools come together
under one Trust, how will that affect their relationship with
the local authority? If all the secondary schools in an area are
part of the same Trust how would that affect the authority's role
of ensuring appropriate provision?
59. Another proposal that has been criticised is
that the governing bodies of Trust schools should only have one
elected parent governor, although one-third of the governing body
will be parents, the others being appointed by the Trust. We
consider that this reduces parental influence rather than increases
it. If Trusts are formed, it should be a requirement that all
parent governors on a Trust school governing body should be elected
by parents of children at the school.
60. The lack of clarity over what a Trust school
is and what it can do has not helped the Government. In the Five
Year Strategy the talk was of independent specialist schools (that
is, foundation schools), but that document explicitly said that
there would be no new types of school.
Just over a year later, the Schools White Paper was published
containing the proposal for Trust schools, apparently in contradiction
of that statement. However, it appears that it is not a contradiction
but another example of the confusion that has bedevilled this
61. In evidence, the Secretary of State said that
Trust schools were not a new invention but were foundation schools
in everything but name. She said that she preferred the term self-governing
school in trying to draw a distinction: "Foundation schools
will all be called self-governing and foundation schools with
a foundation will be trust schools".Table
1: Maintained Primary and Secondary Schools: Number of schools
by status, Jan 2005
|There are also 14 City Technology Colleges and 27 Academies
Source: DfES Statistical First Release, Schools
and Pupils in England, SFR 42/2005, 28 September 2005
62. If the concept of a Trust School is used, therefore,
simply to describe a sub-set of the existing legislative category
of foundation school (i.e. those foundations schools with a foundation)
it is unclear why new legislation is necessary to establish trust
schools. The Government must provide urgent clarification on
63. On the question of whether schools would be offered
inducements to become Trusts, or be put under pressure to do so,
the Secretary of State was quite explicit:
"We are certainly not trying to coerce or bribe
schools to become trusts".
Given that assurance, it appears that the decision
for schools to become Trust schools will be a bottom-up process
rather than top-down, the kind of example that Dr Kershaw gave
us. Collaborations and federations have become increasingly common,
as shown by the fact that the four headteachers who gave evidence
to us at different points in the inquiry were all involved in
co-operative arrangements of some sort. Some commentators suggested
that other changes, such as the arrangements for reporting performance,
might be rather more effective than Trusts in fostering further
collaboration. We carefully noted the evidence given by Sir Cyril
Taylor and Ms Elizabeth Reid, Chairman and Chief Executive respectively
of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, who both argued
that the Trust concept was primarily designed to increase collaboration
between schools. We recommend, therefore, the model of a federation
of two or more schools as the preferred option for the development
of the Trust school concept.
64. Where, though, does this leave the role of the
Schools Commissioner? The Secretary of State told us that the
Schools Commissioner would be a DfES civil servant, advising her
on the exercise of her powers in the way that all the officials
in her department do. It is legitimate for the Department to provide
advice and assistance to those schools who wish to form Trusts,
but the title of Schools Commissioner implies a more executive
role than that which the Secretary of State described.
65. Given the Secretary of State's statement that
schools will not be bribed or coerced into becoming Trust schools,
and given the lack of enthusiasm we have found in the course of
the inquiry for schools to become Trusts, we believe that the
Schools Commissioner should perform a much less executive role
in relation to the promotion and establishment of Trust schools
than suggested in the White Paper. We do, however, make recommendations
about some significant additional strategic responsibilities for
the Commissioner later on in this report. We therefore recommend
that the Schools Commissioner should not be or remain a serving
DfES civil servant after appointment and indeed that it might
be useful for Government to seek an appointee from outside DfES.
The Commissioner should be established at arm's length from the
Department reporting to Parliament through the Select Committee
as well as to ministers in DfES. This will be essential to enable
her or him to operate in a more independent manner and enjoy the
confidence of all parties concerned.
66. The Secretary of State told us that the Government
did not have targets for the number of schools it wanted to become
Trusts: "This is something that schools will have to decide,
whether it is in the interests of their pupils to take up this
appears to be a very different approach to that taken when the
White Paper was published when there was a sense that the majority
of schools would be expected to become Trust schools. It may be
that this was a misapprehension, but it was the source of much
of the concern about the White Paper. Becoming a Trust school
may be attractive to some schools, and the DfES should advise
and assist those who wish to do so, but it should be one option
in a pluralist schools system. The promotion of Trust schools
should not be an overriding policy objective.
67. A related issue is the proposed ban on the establishment
of new community schools, which has also been a bone of contention.
The Government is aiming for a clear division between schools
as independent providers of education and local authorities as
commissioners, enablers and strategic planners. However, if, as
our discussion of Trust schools has shown, there is a lack of
enthusiasm for Trust schools and many current community schools
remain community schools, local authorities are going to remain
in their present position as providers of education (even though,
as we discuss in the next chapter, that provision is for the most
part at arm's length).
68. We have also heard concerns from a number of
witnesses about the knock-on effects of school expansion on other
schools in the neighbouring area if this is not done carefully
and with close co-operation and consultation. This is an issue
not just for Trust Schools but for existing ones. Many head teachers
are themselves concerned that expansion might affect their ability
to function on an optimum basis and spread good practice and work
collaboratively with other schools in the locality. Sir Alan
Steer, whose report has made a significant contribution to the
White Paper on discipline issues, himself said he would not wish
to expand his own school beyond its existing size. We urge
Government to have due regard to these concerns and to implement
mechanisms in the Bill to allay them. We make some recommendations
to this effect later on.
69. It seems therefore that this clear division is
not going to come about without the Government requiring it. If
it is not going to require it, the rationale for preventing further
community schools being established no longer applies. There
is no reason why a local authority should not put forward a proposal
for a new community school when a competition for a new school
is to be held, given that whenever a local authority does
put forward a proposal of its own the decision on the competition
will be made by the Schools Adjudicator.
70. There is already a considerable diversity of
school types in England, an issue which our predecessors considered
in the last Parliament.
We see this diversity as a strength rather than a weakness,
as long as all maintained schools abide by common rules on admissions,
fair access and social composition.
43 Five year Strategy, Chapter 4, paras 21 to 24. Back
White Paper, paras 2.10 to 2.12. Back
ibid, para 2.16. Back
ibid, para 2.21. Back
Education and Skills Committee, Fourth Report, Session 2002-03,
Secondary Education: Diversity of Provision, HC 94, paras
122 and 123. Back
Q 421 Back
Q 767 Back
Q 345 Back
Q 355 Back
Q 245 Back
Firms say no to trust schools, Times Educational Supplement,
25 November 2005. Back
Q 723 Back
Kelly tackles trust school fears, BBC News Online, 6 January
2006: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4587940.stm Back
Q 424 Back
paras 2.17and 18 Back
Trust Schools prospectus, page 2. Back
Five Year Strategy, Chapter 4, para 3. Back
Q 717 Back
Q 731 Back
Q 709 Back
Education and Skills Committee, Fourth Report, Session 2002-03,
Secondary Education: Diversity of Provision, HC 94. Back