UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 311-v

HOUSE OF COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE THE

CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE

 

DIVERSITY OF SCHOOL PROVISION: TRUST SCHOOLS

 

LINDA DOYLE, JOHN CLEMENCE, PHIL NEAL, PROFESSOR RON RITCHIE, JOHN HAYWARD and KEN TONGE

 

Evidence heard in Public

Questions 365 - 472

 

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee

on Wednesday 12 November 2008

Members present:

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Chairman)

Annette Brooke

Mr. David Chaytor

Paul Holmes

Fiona Mactaggart

Mr. Andy Slaughter

Mr. Graham Stuart

 

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Linda Doyle, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, John Clemence, Head Teacher at Sharnbrook Upper School, Phil Neal, Director of SIMS, Capita, Professor Ron Ritchie, Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the School of Education, University of the West of England, John Hayward, Principal Adviser: 11-19, Coventry City Council and Ken Tonge, Bothal Middle School and Strategic Head of Ashington Learning Partnership Trust, gave evidence.

 

 

Q365 Chairman: May I welcome such a large number of witnesses this morning? I cannot remember ever having six. The Committee will have to be very well behaved. If each member of my team asks a question of each member of the team of witnesses, we shall be here all day. I am sorry to call you a team.

This is an important inquiry for us. After a reasonable period of allowing trusts and other elements of diversity to settle, we want to look at the situation, see how it is working and what it is delivering. We now have a chance to do that this morning. In the spirit of inquiry, I shall start with Linda. We shall drop to first names. Is that all right? We will then not have to bother about professors, doctors, dames and knights.

Where are we with the whole trust programme? What is its value?

Linda Doyle: Where are we with the programme? At the moment, we have 114 live trust schools and 57 trust projects because, as I am sure you know, schools can work collaboratively with a single trust. The longest that a school can have been a live trust school-we tend to use the term "live"; it does not mean that we consider other schools to be dead-is one academic year from September 2007, following the provisions of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 coming into force in May 2007. Thirty schools have had the status for just over a year.

We are working with a further 366 schools, which are actively going through the process. We are supporting them through the legal process, networking and so on. This week was the termly opportunity for schools to register to become a supported school, and a further 104 schools want to start the process.

 

Q366 Chairman: Is that 104 on top of the 366 schools?

Linda Doyle: Yes, on top of the 366. There are 366 schools in the process and a further 104 schools have just applied to join it.

I work under contract to the Department for Children, Schools and Families and represent the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. We are working in a consortium with the Youth Sport Trust and the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association. Do you want me to go on?

Chairman: Please do.

Linda Doyle: Secondary, primary and special schools may participate. Of the live trust schools, 84 are secondary, 22 are primary and eight are special schools. It is open to all community schools to become foundation schools and to acquire a trust. Foundation schools can acquire a trust. Voluntary-aided schools cannot become trust schools, as such, but can be involved with trusts in other ways. People on the panel have experience of that.

The whole process is extremely flexible. The Act offers a legal framework for schools to build from. They can choose their own partners. They can choose who they work with from a school point of view-a single school or a group. A group can be geographical or national. It can be all secondaries, or secondaries and primaries-examples are represented here in the team. The governing body is in the driving seat and leads on who shall join the trust, what its aims are, what its focus will be and what work it will do with the school. Therefore, there is enormous diversity in the make-up of trusts, the make-up of the schools involved, and the work that the trusts are doing. It is still early days, but trusts are developing.

Other schools may at a later date apply to join the trust, and other partners may wish to do so. We are seeing some developments there-trusts may start off smaller and grow as they go along. They will change with time.

 

Q367 Chairman: That was a quantitative answer. What about the qualitative answer? Are the trusts doing any good?

Linda Doyle: That is a very broad question.

 

Q368 Chairman: Are they improving the education of children?

Linda Doyle: As I say, it is very early days. We hope that we are building on the excellent work already done by specialist schools. Schools have been working with external partners for many years. The specialist schools programme encouraged schools not only to work with sponsors, but to have a community plan, working with other schools and with community groups. Schools often work anyway with higher education, if they are involved with initial teacher training. They already work with businesses because they have work experience plans to make. In this programme they have the chance to bring those contacts together, and to use them to focus on certain issues. They will choose the issues that are important, and which are possibly barriers to raising attainment in those schools and those areas. It is very much a personal solution, a personal recipe, in each case.

It is too early to see what will happen. We know from specialist schools that being more outward-looking is successful. Bringing those partners together in the same place is a new idea. Schools often have many disparate contacts, who possibly talk to different people within the school. In this arrangement, from time to time those organisations will be brought together formally, and they will be able to interact with each other and with the school by sitting on the trust. The trust normally includes the head teacher of the school-that was an issue that came up during the consultation period-and very often the chair of governors as well. Therefore, there is a good line of communication between the two.

Chairman: Okay. Let us hold it there and run along.

John Clemence: I am head teacher of an upper school in Bedfordshire, which has 1,800 students. We were one of the original pathfinder schools. The North Bedfordshire Schools Trust was established on 1 September 2007, so it is the oldest trust, at 15 months.

 

Q369 Chairman: So you are conducting missionary work in that part of the world, judging from your accent.

John Clemence: Very much so. The trust was established by seven schools initially, and was based on the premise of nought to 19 education-initially three to 19 but ultimately nought to 19. It is therefore viewed as covering the full continuum. The aim of the trust was to get all partners involved, and all individual schools-lowers, middles and uppers-represented. It is a three-tier system in Bedfordshire at the moment. One interesting feature is that we have seven lowers that are voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools, and one of the challenges early on was to find a way through the legislation that would enable them to become full partners. That was critical to us. Those schools are associate members with full partnership and voting rights. We effectively set up a 19-school trust-completed in May 2008-of 15 lower schools, three middle schools and my school, the upper school, each with one trustee. There are faith trustees as well. I am a trustee-I represent the only upper school-and others represent the middle and lower schools. We have four partners, three full partners, each with a trustee-Phil to my left is one of our partners-and the fourth is an associate partner.

 

Q370 Chairman: Why is he a partner?

John Clemence: When the schools got together to form the trust, we looked at which partners we felt would add value to the work of the trust. The group of schools forming the trust started talking to a number of partners. We had in our minds that we would have partners with local significance, but also some with national significance. I shall explain the local bit in relation to SIMS. SIMS is a Bedfordshire company originally, born from Bedfordshire local authority and still with its headquarters there, although Capita is its parent company. There was a strong relationship and a strong feeling that SIMS would be an automatic choice. The second automatic choice was Unilever, which has its research base in Bedfordshire-in fact, it borders my school, which is quite handy. Unilever was automatically a consideration and automatically wished to become involved with the trust. We followed a similar path, so a third partner is Bedford College of Further Education and the fourth Cranfield University, which is based in Bedfordshire. There was some synergy between us in what we were trying to achieve.

Equally, if we go back to SIMS Capita, the north Bedfordshire area is quite rural-in case you think that Bedfordshire does not have a rural area-and we cover 400 sq km. We could not build buildings between the 19 schools, but we could link them more strongly using an IT infrastructure and a learning platform. We felt that SIMS in particular could assist us with that, hence the choice of partners being important.

 

Q371 Chairman: But why were you so enthusiastic about getting into this in the first place?

John Clemence: That is an interesting question. There was a partnership of schools previous to this, to be fair. It needed a shot in the arm and greater commitment-rather than meetings that were a talking shop and led to no change, we felt that we needed greater thrust. The trust development came along at the right time, arguably. In Bedfordshire, it followed a particular local circumstance in relation to the possibility of reorganisation and some destabilisation of schools. Schools felt that we needed to make certain that we were well and truly in control of our destinies and futures. So there were various elements that caused this. The trust development came along at that stage-the schools felt that they had the mechanism to strengthen the collaboration that already existed. It created a legal imperative, for example, and it brought in external partners-a number of factors led to that.

 

Q372 Chairman: We will drill down into that in a minute, but I shall be in trouble with my team if I do not keep us moving. Phil, you are a partner, and we know about SIMS. Why is it called SIMS Capita these days? You merged with some other company, did you?

Phil Neal: I was one of the original founders of SIMS. My partners decided that they were getting too old and decided to sell the company, but I have stayed. It is as simple as that.

We have informal relations with quite a large number of schools, as you can imagine. We have about 50 partner schools, although not in the formal status of trust. We have been working closely with those schools for quite some time, because they are advocates of what we do. We were then approached, first, by South Dartmoor School, to see if it could involve us more formally. It decided to form a trust and invited us to become a trust partner. That was the first school we got involved with on a formal basis. We were then approached by Sharnbrook, because there is some historical connection in Bedfordshire, as John says-the chair of governors at Sharnbrook is an ex-director of SIMS, so there is a strong relationship.

We felt that the trusts were something that we should do, partly on selfish grounds, because our business is making certain that schools can run and manage themselves properly. What better way of seeing how the new challenges come into play than being much closer and formally involved? That is our payback, if you like. Our involvement with the two trusts is to help them to make the best use of our software, particularly with the Every Child Matters agenda, and sometimes to bring expertise in public relations and such matters-things that we are more used to doing than schools are.

 

Q373Chairman: So we have quite a cluster. Professor Ritchie-or Ron, as I will now call you-what is your view?

Professor Ritchie: I am an assistant vice-chancellor at the University of the West of England and my role is to look at the university's wider links with schools and colleges. I am also dean of the school of education, so I have a day-to-day job that brings me into contact with schools through initial teacher education and continuing professional development.

The University of the West of England is committed in its mission to support local schools and colleges. We recruit a lot of our students from the local area, so raising aspiration and attainment in local schools is very important to us. We see our civic responsibility as contributing directly to school improvement in the area. We also regard ourselves as engaged in knowledge exchange rather than being in an ivory tower doing research. We are out there working with partners. We saw both the academies programme and the trust opportunity as ways of enhancing what we already do with schools. We have partnerships with several hundred schools, and in many cases those partnerships have lasted a long time.

We became formally involved by sponsoring an academy-I think we were the first university to do so. We learned a lot from that engagement about how sustained relationships between a university and a school over time can produce new kinds of benefits. We were actively involved in the discussions with the local authority about possible trust arrangements and we were careful to be transparent in the decisions we would make about which schools we would work with. In the event, we are a formal trust partner in two existing trusts and are being approached about others.

I am the chair of trustees of the Bridge Learning Campus, a really exciting development where we have brought together in the Hartcliffe area of south Bristol-one of the lowest participation areas in the country-a secondary school, a primary school and a special school. There will also be a pupil referral unit there. The partners are the university, a large further education college-City of Bristol College-which will also have a vocational centre on site, and the local authority. That trust is creating an all-through campus, with Building Schools for the Future new build. In January of next year these schools will move into new premises.

We have been making a variety of contributions to that trust, as we have to the other one, which is the Worle and Westhaven Trust, a community secondary school and a special school which have come together with a particular focus on the Every Child Matters agenda. The partners there include the primary care trust, the local authority and two smaller organisations very committed to developing learning in a broad sense. The university sees its contribution in a variety of ways.

 

Q374Chairman: Who is your partner in the academy?

Professor Ritchie: It was originally Bristol City football club or one of its sponsors. It is now an individual person contributing. We are the main educational sponsor.

 

Q375Chairman: Who put the 2 million in?

Professor Ritchie: The other sponsor.

 

Q376Chairman: A private sponsor?

Professor Ritchie: Yes.

Chairman: Okay.

Professor Ritchie: I would characterise the contribution we make as including direct support for learners in the schools, so my colleagues and I and students from the university are making a direct contribution to learners. We have a raft of widening participation activities, where we are trying to raise aspirations to make university an option for these young people who would not normally consider it. We try to offer information, advice, guidance and support through a range of activities, getting them up to the university. We work with initial teacher education, enhanced in exciting and new ways that we had not previously used. We offer continuing professional development for teachers and other adults in the school.

In one of the trusts we are setting up a centre for professional development with the local authority and the school, where we will provide continuing professional development for other teachers. We are making a major contribution to both the leadership and governance of the school. Senior colleagues of mine are governors, vice-chairs of boards of governors or are actively involved in the governance of those trusts, and we use the opportunities a university can provide for research and knowledge exchange to support the mission of those trust schools.

For example, in south Bristol a colleague of mine had done some ground-breaking research on why young people in deprived areas do not aspire to go to university and do not choose to participate. That sophisticated piece of research came up with some interesting findings. We have used the outcomes of that research to create the mission for the new all-through schools, so a university is able, through such sustained partnerships, to work in interesting ways to impact on the work that goes on in the schools.

 

Q377 Chairman: It sounds interesting, but when I talk to universities that have gone into partnerships like academies, some universities and some external experts say the problem is that many universities do not have the kind of management capacity to do that. How can you manage that in your university when others say that the vice-chancellor does not have that kind of depth of management to make a real difference in a demanding partnership?

Professor Ritchie: That is a good question, and it is something that universities are still trying to work through. I ran a workshop for universities only last weekend about the way we are trying to do that, what we are learning from it, how difficult it is and where the resourcing problems arise. There are a large number of good models, as 85 universities are involved in trusts in a variety of ways, and we are trying to ensure that we are doing that strategically so that we have a resource allocation for it, a clear rationale and criteria for deciding which trusts we will support and why. It is a whole university link with the whole school, not just the faculty of education or an outreach centre. It tries to combine the resource, energy and expertise of the wider university.

 

Q378 Chairman: I have to say that it sounds highly suspicious-an extremely well-run university doing such good stuff-so we will hold you there for a moment.

John Hayward: I am the principal adviser for Coventry city council, and my role is to support and challenge secondary schools. We have 19 comprehensive schools in Coventry and they are all for 11 to 19-year-olds. To characterise Coventry in one particular way, we and our head teachers have invested very heavily in a partnership approach to school improvement over the past six years. That focus is on system-wide improvement across the 19 schools, and we have spent a lot of time in networks sharing good practice in a collaborative approach to school improvement. We monitor the impact of that regularly, and I am pleased to say that we have had encouraging improvements this summer in a range of key performance indicators as a result of that partnership approach.

We were asked 18 months ago to explore our statutory responsibility to promote diversity and choice, as most local authorities were. We were concerned to ensure that that responsibility was consistent with our collaborative and partnership approach to school improvement across the 19 schools. Over the last 18 months we have supported five of our 19 secondary schools to become individual trusts, and they have all opted for the model by which the governors remain the majority partner in the governing body and the trustees become a minority partner. They have chosen a range of partners from higher education, further education and local businesses.

With regard to our role in the partnership, I am pleased to say that all five governing bodies have asked the city council to be a formal trustee to maintain its role in promoting the partnerships. The five schools became trusts this September, so it is probably too early to judge what the outcome will be. We will be doing three key things in the next 12 months. We are supporting the trustees to develop their role, so we have set up, for example, a forum for trustees of the five schools to meet with the local authority and chairs of boards of governors and heads to explore how they might fulfil their responsibilities.

The second thing we will do over the next 12 months is to begin to monitor the impact of the trustees on the performance of the five schools. The third thing we are committed to doing is to ensure that in all of that we continue to facilitate the role of the five trust schools in our local partnerships. From our point of view it would be a key policy objective that they maintain themselves as full partners in the various networks that they are part of.

 

Q379 Chairman: John, what kind of hierarchy is there in Coventry? Do you report directly to the director of children's services?

John Hayward: There is a head of services for schools in between me and the director of education, and a strategic leader for school improvement.

 

Q380 Chairman: You have vast experience. You are the driving force in the trust relationship, but you are backed by your director and this chap or woman who comes in between you?

John Hayward: Yes, I am backed by those people. It is something that we talked to the director about. It would be fair to say that of the five schools, two were very interested in becoming trusts of their own volition, and we had significant conversations with the other three as a local authority at that time-

 

Q381 Chairman: You mean you leant on them?

John Hayward: No. We were trying to look at what was best in terms of the future of the system, along with the head teachers.

Chairman: Thank you. Ken, you are last but not least.

Ken Tonge: Good morning, everybody. I will tell you a little bit about our project and hold back on the impact and outcomes until later. I am sure there will be some questions about that. My role is that of strategic head of the Ashington Learning Partnership Trust, which is an organisation of five schools in a three-tier system in Northumberland. We took the initiative in the summer of 2006 to do something about the problems of working in a three-tier system when we learned that the release of BSF funding, which would lead to reorganisation into a two-tier system for Northumberland, would be as late as 2014. A lot of children were going to go through the education system, which we considered imperfect at that time, before we were able to reorganise. In effect, we decided to do it to ourselves before others did it to us. The opportunity of becoming a trust pathfinder seemed like an ideal chance for us to make a change.

As you have already heard from another example, we wanted to form an all-age school from three to adult. We have a partnership of five schools which encompass 3,000 pupils. There is a route from first school to middle school to high school, which means that we can have a continuous run of education. We have a done a lot of work on the curriculum, on assessment and on engaging people in improvements in the schools. Our partners in supporting that have been Northumbria university, Northumberland further education college, the children's centre in Ashington, Wansbeck Business Forum-there are no large industries in our area, but lots of small businesses come together under that mantle-and the local education authority. We have had some considerable success over the last 15 months or so. I will hold back at this stage because I think you will probably have some further questions.

 

Q382 Chairman: Where are you based in Northumberland?

Ken Tonge: We are in Ashington, which is in south-east Northumberland. Our town is a former mining community. It was formed just for mining and as you can probably work out, as there is no mining now, there are high levels of social deprivation and unemployment.

Chairman: They may be opening them all up again shortly.

Ken Tonge: Yes, scraping the soil off the top.

Chairman: I do like your strategy of do it yourself before others do it to you. Perhaps Graham will translate that into Latin for us. It might be a good motto. Thank you for that, all of you. Now we are going to drill down. I have got you, I hope, warmed up. Paul, you are going to lead on this.

 

Q383 Paul Holmes: I am wondering whether we can make clear exactly what is new about all this. The background information on Coventry, for example, says: "The Local Authority and each of its 19 secondary head teachers have invested heavily in the development of partnership structures and networks over the last six years." What is new about trusts? The school I worked in 20 years ago had governors from the local university. It had governors from local businesses. What is new about it all? A lot of the things that Linda was saying in her opening comments were "motherhood and apple pie": a secondary school will work with its partner schools, or feeder schools, as we used to call them back then. All this happened anyway, so what exactly is new about trust schools?

Linda Doyle: This is not a revolutionary move, when anybody takes it. As you say, there are partnerships that go on, but this type of relationship is slightly different because it is formalised. It is not the governing body, initially, but another body. That body is not running the school; it is a separate body connected with the governing body. Yes, it can appoint governors-I am sure that you will want to ask about that at some point-but it is a separate body set up by the school or schools, if there is a group, and it formalises organisation to organisation relationships.

A lot of partnership working that goes on in schools happens almost by chance, or is based on personalities, where somebody who works for the multinational down the road happens to be on the governing body. That can be an individual to individual relationship. Schools often need important relationships to be more sustainable than that. If those relationships are organisation to organisation, we hope that they will be more sustainable, where possibly the multinational down the road makes an agreement with the school. They usually draw up a memorandum of understanding, so that everybody knows what to expect from each other. That organisation might be asked to always provide a governor for the governing body of the school, so there is that commitment and, hopefully, continuity.

 

Q384 Chairman: So it is systemic change-you systematise the thing, rather than having ad hoc personal relationships?

Linda Doyle: Yes, and it is organisation to organisation, rather than individuals. It is also slightly removed from the day-to-day issues that the governing body has to look at. The governing body is responsible and remains responsible for the running of the school, for the budget, and for the results. The trust can take a slightly longer view, focusing on the issues that it has been asked to focus on by the governing body. It can put the different sets of expertise together on those issues and we are told that the meeting of these different people is extremely useful.

So it is a slightly different point of view, which we hope will, for at least the medium to long term, look at issues in the areas that Ken was just talking about. In the area where he is, there is high unemployment and I would imagine that what normally goes with that is a lack of aspiration to go into higher education and all that sort of thing. The trust may address those issues in particular, and it has the time and focus to do that. It does not have to spend most or a lot of its meetings looking at the latest Government regulations for education and that sort of thing, which governing bodies have to do as they have an enormously wide range of issues on their plate every time they meet.

This body, which will feed into the governing body and what happens in the school, can focus on the other issues and it will hopefully be able to come up with some effective strategies. It is not going to be instant-nothing in education ever is-but that is the theory anyway, using a different type of relationship. It is a legal relationship and a legal process has to be gone through, but there is a subtle difference in this body compared with the governing body.

 

Q385 Paul Holmes: John or John, does that imply that the trusts are arm's length, higher-level thinking bodies, rather than bodies involved in the day-to-day running of the school? Is that right?

John Clemence: Yes, I view the trust as an enhancer of provision within the 19 schools. It adds value to the work of those schools. Just briefly, to give you a perfect illustration, we have always had a strong relationship with our neighbours, Unilever, but it has always been dependent on individuals and personalities. They move off overseas or to another establishment in this country and the relationship breaks down again. What has happened is that we have systemised the process through the trust.

We have all heard about the STEM report, and the great concern within universities as well as industry about youngsters going into science, technology, engineering and maths. That is a strand that we have been working on very strongly, to ensure that there is work going on in all the schools-lower, middle and upper-to encourage youngsters toward the idea that science is a good area to go into. There is a commitment by the partners to doing that on a regular, not an ad hoc, basis. That has had a major impact in the past 15 months.

 

Q386 Paul Holmes: We read that the trust owns the school, the land and the buildings and appoints the governors-one third of whom will be parents, so two thirds will not be. What is all that, if the trust is simply a more remote strategic body? It actually owns everything and appoints the governors of every individual school.

John Clemence: The trust owns the land and buildings, but it holds them in trust for the benefit of the youngsters in those schools. It cannot do other things with them, because there are quite strong safeguards-permissions from the local authority, the Secretary of State and so on. There is legal ownership. I have to say that when travelling round to all the governing bodies while we were forming the trust, "Why?" was always a question that came up. That aspect should not get in the way, arguably, of the trust's mission, which is to improve the quality of schools and the experience of youngsters in the schools, and the partners come in and assist in that.

The overall responsibility for the running of individual schools, because they still have 19 separate governing bodies, remains with them: they run the school on a daily basis, they happen to be the employer and so on. I do not know the answer to this, but, certainly as far as my trust is concerned, we set up a minority trust so the partners are in the minority. Each partner organisation has one trustee and there are two foundation trust governors on each governing body, so, again, they are in the minority on those governing bodies, to ensure that no one group is dictating to governing bodies what they should and should not do-just the opposite.

 

Q387 Chairman: But John, we are politicians; where does power lie within this group? It has been set up for you to ensure that you get your own way.

John Clemence: That is interesting. Frankly, the power lies with the governing bodies because, inevitably, the governors retain the power to stay within the trust or to withdraw if they feel that it is not doing what they wish it to do. The power lies with the governing body, as always. The schools within it are still part of the local authority framework. However, the critical thing is: how do you engage schools to move forward when there are 19 independent schools, all at different states of play but all signed up for this joint venture? It could become a source of frustration in the future. That is the challenge, and how to engage them and move forward together will be a challenge for all trusts that have multiple schools.

 

Q388 Paul Holmes: Is that pattern the same in, say, Bristol or Coventry? Is the trust a more remote strategic body, which does not have day-to-day, hands-on control of the school, control over the appointment of the governors and over writing the admissions policy?

Chairman: Who wants to take that?

Ken Tonge: I would be glad to take that. My experience is probably slightly different in that, while, yes, the trust powers the work that we are talking about, power does not rest with the trustees, although influence does. We have a single governing body for the five schools, because we are also hard-federated. That is the real driving force, with the trust acting as a moral conscience but with a very experienced and knowledgeable moral conscience behind it, with lots of key players who can contribute. That last point is important. We now have a formal relationship with some key agencies that can support us and develop our organisation as a virtual all-age school. We are using that as a resource as much a management or governance agent.

 

Q389 Paul Holmes: In Coventry, all five governing bodies went for the trustees having a minority of places on the governing bodies, so the power remains with the governors. Obviously, there are other models under the national challenge. A suggestion by the National Challenge Trust would involve the trustees becoming the majority on the governing body. That is a different scenario from the one that we have in Coventry.

Professor Ritchie: I want to emphasise the contribution that the partners have made to the trusts that we have been working with. They were involved in the early discussions on the mission of the school and the long-term approach that it would take. The influence that we then have on a more practical basis is through the governors whom we appoint, but we are not just about trying to put so-called experts into a local context.

We are also keen to build capacity locally, so, for example, we used the fact that the trust appoints parent governors and tried to find parents in the local area whose children go to the school who are interested in becoming trust governors. We interview them and talk to them about what it means to work with the trust as trust governors and move forward the mission that we have for the school, and we provide them with support.

Inevitably, as partners, we also work in a fairly practical way through our organisation with the schools. Therefore, when I am the chairman of trustees and wearing that hat, I make a more strategic contribution and steer the long-term aspirations of the school. I also meet the school leadership team and colleagues from my university to discuss strategically what the various parts of the plan for university support of the schools will be. We also work strategically partner to partner, which, again, is something that I want to reinforce as a huge benefit of longer-term sustained relationships over time.

What I have found attractive about the model that we are now operating is that it is not dependent on individuals; it is more about institutional relationships. It allows us to operate in a very different way with the schools. Often, a university is subject to being invited to be involved with a school. We are there now as an equal partner. Equal partners in a partnership operate in a very different way from someone who is occasionally invited in for short-term projects. We can plan long-term, sustained projects that we hope will make a real difference, and this approach to the structure of schools has allowed us to do that.

 

Q390 Paul Holmes: I know that you, Ken, spoke about an area where the pits have closed and there was deprivation. In general, across the range of experience, are the trusts there for schools in difficult areas, for schools that are already very successful, or for a mix?

Chairman: May we have one from each side? We cannot take six.

Linda Doyle: We have a mixture of schools involved. Every school has issues that it wants to address. Some schools, for example, wanted to enhance their specialism. I think of a science college in south Devon that wanted to enhance the science in the organisation and use the trust for that, so it is involved with the marine biology department at the local university and with a multinational company that it was working with before-AstraZeneca, which will mentor A-level students and so on. We get down to really practical support. You get agreement at the vision and aims level but then come down to the really practical work that those people can do together. There are very different motivations, and that is the benefit of the flexibility of the system.

 

Q391 Chairman: Phil, you have been a bit neglected. What is your experience? Is this for struggling schools or for all sorts of schools?

Phil Neal: To be honest, both the schools that I am involved with are not in the category of struggling. We get involved with a large number of schools that are in difficult areas-Easington colliery, for example. There are all sorts of schools in difficulties, but, in terms of trust experience, the two that I am working with are well positioned.

Chairman: John?

John Hayward: It is a mixture of schools.

 

Q392 Chairman: You said that two were energetically enthusiastic to come under the trust, but the possibilities and potential had to be talked up for three of them. Were the three that were more reluctant the stronger schools, or the struggling schools?

John Hayward: It depends on your definitions. In my view, they were good value added schools, but some of them serve fragile communities. We thought that trusts might have been a way of strengthening partnerships with key local institutions. But they are very successful schools.

 

Q393 Paul Holmes: With 19 schools in the trust, you are a miniature local authority. What about falling rolls? The Government are telling local authorities that they have to close schools because they will cut their money-as if they had any anyway. What happens to the schools that are not in your mini-local authority? Will they lose out? Will they be short because you have a good organisation that protects your patch?

Chairman: You are being painted like the mafia, John.

John Clemence: It is an interesting description of the local authority. There are 5,000 plus youngsters who are served by the trust. We do not have any special treatment. Is that the underlying aspect of the question? If a local authority reorganises or chooses to reorganise, we are treated just the same. I mentioned at the beginning of our proceedings that, back in the 2006 movement, the trust was developed at a time of consideration of reorganisation. Here we are again in my neck of the woods. The trust will not do that reorganisation as a local authority school. That consultation and proposal will be made by the local authority, and we will be treated no differently.

 

Q394 Paul Holmes: Your trust of 19 schools owns the land, the buildings, is in charge and so forth, but the local authority can do things to you.

John Clemence: Absolutely.

Chairman: We will move to Graham. He has not translated the Latin, but Latymer Upper School is observing the Committee this morning, so perhaps we could give it the translation.

 

Q395 Mr. Stuart: It is great to have a former Latymer pupil on our Select Committee.

Are there any financial benefits to being a trust school, Linda?

Linda Doyle: If you are thinking about funding from the local authority for the general budget of the schools, none whatever. Things remain exactly the same.

 

Q396 Mr. Stuart: No financial benefits whatever?

Linda Doyle: No. The school is treated in exactly the same way. The capital projects that go on in the authority work in the same way with the school and as we were saying, the school can be closed by the local authority. The schools are maintained schools.

Ken Tonge: On a practical point, it is as much about formal partnership as it is about financial benefit. By the fact that we have formed the single organisation, our purchasing power and our ability to negotiate contracts have been such that, in the first year of tinkering with contracts, we saved 130,000. That is not the result of trust status, but the result of partnership.

 

Q397 Mr. Stuart: All six of you are enthusiasts. We are in the early stages, so you are on the wave of enthusiasm-quite rightly for enthusiasts. What are the weaknesses of the trust model? What would critics say? Who has doubts, or are you all completely convinced that the trust model is the greatest thing that has ever been brought forward?

John Hayward: I suppose that we will be interested in monitoring the impact on our partnerships. There is a potential area where we have to be careful. There are a number of sensitive areas, for example, in respect of those aged 14 to 19 where schools are collaborating in admissions and the movement of pupils from school to school in an urban authority. At the moment, we have seen no signs of such matters being adverse, but it is very early days. They are things that we shall need to look at very carefully.

Chairman: Ron Ritchie, you wanted to come in on this.

Professor Ritchie: I am enthusiastic for quality enhanced partnerships with schools. How we create them is less of an issue for me. The university has in a sense pragmatically taken the opportunity that exists through trust schools, rather than saying that we advocate it. We have never gone out searching for trust partners. Schools have always come to us as a way to enhance their work.

In answer to the previous question, we-through the criteria that we operate as a university-have chosen to work with schools in challenging circumstances. Bristol has seven national challenge schools, so we are inevitably working with schools that have difficulties.

 

Q398 Mr. Stuart: What is in it for you? You have put an enormous amount into this. How are you paid for doing that? How do you benefit?

Professor Ritchie: There are resource questions for us. We use some of the resources that come to us through the Office for Fair Access agreement and the university funding streams. We use some of our continual professional development funding streams to work in particular ways with the schools.

 

Q399 Mr. Stuart: Which funding streams?

Professor Ritchie: The postgraduate professional development streams, for example, that come from the Training and Development Agency for teacher professional development. We have our initial teacher education funding stream, and we can use some of that for enhanced work in schools.

 

Q400 Mr. Stuart: Were those streams available before the trust model? Have they made any difference to that?

Professor Ritchie: Yes, they were available before. Trust has not changed that, but the decisions about how we allocate the funds in particular schools are significant.

 

Q401 Mr. Stuart: So, you are effectively paid for your involvement in schools.

Professor Ritchie: No. There is a serious question about how universities can be properly resourced for the role that I think we could take.

 

Q402 Chairman: It seems that you are focusing money that you would already have for different programmes in a slightly different way.

Professor Ritchie: That is because we see those opportunities as being more efficient, and as perhaps giving greater benefits than came from the way in which the funds were previously used. So we have become smarter about how we use, for example, funding that we have for widening participation. We have become more strategic in how we use it. But what I wanted to suggest was that a challenge for us is that since as a university we have chosen to work with schools such as national challenge schools, there is a reputational risk for us associated with that.

We really are putting our money where our mouth is, by saying that if we are going to recruit future university students from low participation areas and make that work, we have to make an investment in those areas. With that comes the risk of their not being successful. We have been in this for a long time now; we started in 2001 with sponsorship of the city academy. The academy's results have shown considerable increases, but more importantly we have seen, for example, the number of applicants to university from that inner-city school go from one in 10 to one in four, over the period. It does not matter to us whether they come to just the university of the West of England; what we have are increased numbers of young people taking the opportunity that higher education offers.

 

Q403 Mr. Stuart: That is what it is all about, and you are quite right to bring us back to it. I was trying to scratch away at weaknesses, doubts and fears about this particular model. We have had "systemise", "legalise" and "formalise", but "fossilise" comes into my head.

Chairman: Are you talking about the Conservative party?

Mr. Stuart: Certainly not, but we do see that in Government, sadly. Is there any risk on that front, because of the formalised system? You say that it is no longer about individuals, but if you formalise certain relationships with certain companies or institutions you prevent enthusiastic individuals from other institutions or companies from coming on board. If people send a representative because they are formally obliged to under the memorandum of agreement, in the early years you get the enthusiasm and the input, but you end up later on with people being sent because someone has to go, and you get the wrong guy sitting on the thing. Is there a risk of that?

Ken Tonge: I wanted to add another "ise"-energise. Just the opposite idea, really. I have been in this business of education for 33 years, and the last two years have been such a wonderful, energetic journey, reinvigorating the staff, governors and partners of all the schools. It has been an exciting process, and the stimulus has been the formation of the trust. Fossilise is the last word that I would use in connection with that.

Mr. Stuart: You are all enthusiastic. That is nice to hear.

Chairman: Are you done?

 

Q404 Mr. Stuart: Just to check again, apart from formalising, does the trust model give you any powers or abilities that you did not have under the Education Act 2002?

Chairman: Phil, you are looking energetic.

Phil Neal: I thought that that was a new question.

Chairman: Who wants to take it? John?

John Clemence: I do not think that it does, other than giving strength through collaboration. We heard earlier about the efficiencies gained through the use of the budget. There are particular gains there, but no particular powers. It is what you make of them and how you use them with your partners. Going back to the fossilisation element, one of the weaknesses could be the frustration there might be if you do not make the pace that you look for. It is about how you would then re-engineer the trust to enable that to happen. I would see our trust having other partners joining at different times, for particular projects, to bring forward and take advantage of particular changes in legislation, education or development, so that you avoid fossilisation. You make it alive-energise it-and keep that going.

Another interesting dimension-it happens to be the case in Bedfordshire that a number of trusts are forming, and almost the whole of the authority will probably get there-is the interrelationship between trusts and how they work together. The final element-I am interested in Ken's position up in Ashington-is that it is possible that the trust may lead to a point where schools want to get even closer together, forming some kind of harder federation or arrangement. That is possible through that closer working.

 

Q405 Mr. Stuart: Just scratching away at this, you have trusts, the governing bodies, local authorities-John said, I am glad to say, that there are local authorities in every single one of them, so no relaxation there-and head teachers, especially those of a small "p" political bent, who like this kind of involvement and working with others. From the classroom perspective, is there a danger with this apparatus? I know, from my experience on a governing body, that it seems like a vast, complex apparatus over a simple set of classrooms, which need supported teachers able to concentrate on their job. Is there any danger that the apparatus is a distraction for those who should be focusing on the day job?

Chairman: He is scratching away this morning.

Mr. Stuart: We have the wrong set of witnesses to get anyone to give us a negative view.

Ken Tonge: One of the dangers of getting involved in a major project like this is that the system is the focus, and a lot of the operational stuff does not benefit from it. That is where the question is coming from.

I alluded to some wins that we have had already. We work in a three-tier system, which means that we have had transition for many years, part way through Key Stage 2 and part way through Key Stage 3. The schools, which were supposedly in partnership, were never really in partnership-we did a lot of good work about the social transfer between schools, but very little about the transfer of good-quality data and information. As a result of being in a trust, we have got beyond just agreeing assessment and moderation protocols, so that we are all reading the same knowledge about the children. We have also reorganised our curriculum structures. We looked at what we were doing and realised that we had certain skills shortfalls, so we shared across all the schools. We ought to put those into the context of what we were teaching already. I have brought us an example, which I shall be happy to leave as evidence.

We formed a skills matrix which addresses, key stage by key stage, what we want to achieve in skills that support learning, personal and social development, and so on. That is the result of a working party involving 30 or 40 classroom teachers over the course of last year. Now it is being implemented for every teacher and every child across the trust. It is already beginning to show results, in terms of not just access to learning, but the quality of autonomous learning that we are creating from our pupils.

Chairman: Ken, what you have just done usually totally confuses Hansard-you are waving a pamphlet, so we shall put that on the record. Andy?

Mr. Slaughter: Graham has already dealt with one of my lines of questions.

Mr. Stuart: Sorry.

Mr. Slaughter: No, but it worries me when I think in the same way as you.

Do we have another party from Latymer in the Committee room?

Chairman: Latymer also-this is the second party. No, do not speak. Andy went to Latymer-that is why he wants to know.

 

Q406 Mr. Slaughter: Even though it is much more of a fee-paying school than when I went there, I am glad to see that the sixth form is still as scruffy 30 years on as it always was.

There is a bureaucracy point, and a point about the language, which Graham has already picked up on. You will probably say that civil servants and politicians are responsible for all this terminology, which we now do not understand fully. However, do parents understand it? Does it matter to them? Do you think that there is understanding there-do they know that they are sending their children to a trust school, does that matter to them and what does it mean to them?

Chairman: Linda, you have been neglected for a while.

Linda Doyle: There is a formal process that schools have to go through, which starts with an informal consultation, covering all the groups you are talking about-staff obviously, pupils, parents, the local authority and everyone you could think of who might be involved. It includes MPs as well, for that matter. All of those groups are consulted. What is happening is laid out very clearly, the foundation status aspect of it, issues of admissions, staff employment and land ownership are one side of it.

The other side would be the trust. Who will be invited to be on it? The consultation will not take place until that has been fully discussed because it must show who the partners will be. The school receives feedback on that. The school offers to meet any of those groups. They may hold large meetings or surgeries and they receive reaction and responses to the consultation, which they have to consider formally at one of the governing body meetings. Following that, they will provide a response to anybody who has brought up any issues, and if they decide to continue they will then publish formal statutory proposals, again setting out what they are going to do.

 

Q407 Mr. Slaughter: You are going into the process.

Linda Doyle: Which is talking to parents.

 

Q408 Mr. Slaughter: I am sure that there are some parents, the same ones who read all the Ofsted reports, who will do that assiduously. But if I am a parent who happens to live in your catchment area, why would I want to send my child to a trust school? What would I think I was getting out of that?

Chairman: Ron Ritchie wants to answer that.

Professor Ritchie: I have in front of me, for example-

Chairman: No, he is doing it again. This class is incorrigible.

Professor Ritchie: I was going to say that I have in front of me the trust prospectus for the Bridge Learning Campus, which is one of the ways in which we seek to communicate with the community, parents and guardians on what the trust is about. That prospectus explains something about the nature of trust schools but, much more crucially, it talks about the vision of the trust, why there is a trust and what the various partners bring. It also makes it very transparent who the trustees are, what their backgrounds are, what they bring to it and what are the contact points. We have presented at parent evenings. We have had open sessions where parents can come and talk. Crucially, there is a vehicle here for reassuring parents who might have concerns-it is also available to staff and other interested parties-and it ensures that we put at the centre of the process the fact that there is a vision in why we are doing this. It is about inclusivity. It is about all-through learning. It is about pathways to progression, etcetera, etcetera. We make that as transparent as we can.

Chairman: That is more consultation than you get about the third runway at Heathrow.

 

Q409 Mr. Slaughter: A sore point, as you know.

Let me try out my other suspicion. I will use my little and dangerous knowledge here and direct this at John Clemence. You have the Pilgrim Trust in Bedfordshire, which is an accumulation of private schools.

John Clemence: The Harpur Trust.

Chairman: You are getting a little bit intimate, you two. Could you speak a little louder so that the rest of us can hear.

 

Q410 Mr. Slaughter: What tends to happen, where you have a big body of private schools is that the state sector starts to segregate as well and you get people bidding for the middle ground. I know that people move near your school to be in your catchment area. Are you setting yourselves up as a sort of halfway house, as academies are sometimes accused of doing, between bog standard comprehensives and the private schools for those parents who choose to or can afford to pay?

John Clemence: Absolutely not. The Harpur Trust has four major independent sector schools. It is in Bedford just down the road from my school. The trust was set up to support the 19 schools and to enrich the opportunities within those schools. We did not give much thought to the Harpur Trust at the time. Having said that, we have a good relationship and some joint working. There is a joint project with the university of Bristol and one of the schools there. The relationship between the two is friendly, but the trust was not set up in competitive mode.

 

Q411 Mr. Slaughter: I do not know whether anyone else wants to deal with that question. It may not be exactly the same situation, but I am sure you would say that you do not aim to do this, but it is nevertheless quite easy to give off these signals. You are effectively saying, "We are something a little apart from the state sector. We can offer you something more." If we make more of this when we deal with admissions, you are sending out dog-whistle signals to more ambitious parents.

 

Q412Chairman: I think what Andy is saying relates to what a witness said to this Committee a long time ago-that the British have a genius for turning diversity into hierarchy. Is that what you are doing, positioning yourself as not quite a grammar school? Is that what you are trying to do, Ken?

Ken Tonge: The school at which I was formerly head, Ashington High School sports college, which is now a member of that partnership, was a high-performing specialist school when we went for trust status, and had 461 expressions of preference for admission for 270 available places. So it was not necessary to reposition the school as a result of being in a trust to make it more attractive. What we wanted-because we are part of this imperative to raise standards-was to look at a new way of structuring ourselves so that we could raise standards. It was not about being in competition with others, it was about making ourselves better.

 

Q413Chairman: Phil, you have been a bit neglected. Is that what it is all about?

Phil Neal: I certainly see no evidence of using it as a status-raising vehicle. It is very much to do with getting the schools in the trust to co-operate. A question was asked earlier about what difference is made in the classroom. It does make a difference.

Chairman: It is still a good question. Now, another good question, Fiona.

 

Q414Fiona Mactaggart: Ken, you described this as a new way of structuring yourselves, and that is quite impressive. What I hear are the benefits of innovation. You have a new system, you look at yourselves afresh, you do things differently and they improve. My honest concern is whether this is going to last. I have a feeling that this is like the Henry Ford experiment: when he turned up the lights, production improved and then a couple of years later he turned them down and production improved. Change helps. I want you to respond to that.

Chairman: Ken and then John.

Ken Tonge: I take your question to mean, is the impetus of change creating short-term results that will not be sustainable? Our job is to put the operational systems in place to make sure it is sustainable, so we have implemented new models of leadership and governance that will be the vehicles for carrying out the sustainability of the change we want. The vision does not move. We have the vision-that is what we are aiming. As long as the vision is there, until we achieve it and establish a new vision, I see no reason why that impetus should not continue.

Chairman: You sound a bit like Gordon Brown.

Ken Tonge: Did I really? As dull as that?

Chairman: Ron, would you like to come in on this?

Professor Ritchie: I think it is a good question. We are learning, and have been for the last few years, about how we can establish more effective partnerships with external organisations, with schools. People are testing out ideas and understanding what the benefits might be. For example-wearing my higher education hat-I think we are at a crucial stage of understanding new ways in which universities and colleges of further education may engage in effective, sustained partnerships with schools. A risk we at the university have identified is being associated with something that may not deliver in the way that we hoped at the time. We are monitoring that and looking for robust ways to evaluate. We are undertaking systematic evaluation of some of these projects and crucially trying to ensure that we learn. We would argue that we have cumulatively built up the different partnerships we have formed, some of which are outside any trust arrangement although they are still enhanced partnerships. We are looking at the particular benefits, challenges and opportunities that the different kinds of partnerships offer. This is something we need to continue to evaluate and ensure it is sustained over time, as we suggest it might be.

Chairman: John is keen to come in.

John Hayward: Yes. In terms of the five Coventry schools, however the conversation originally started, I am convinced that the enthusiasm of the five head teachers, together with their governing bodies and the independent judgments that they made, will carry the trusts forward, certainly over the medium term. There is a lot of commitment from the heads, their chairs of governors, and their trustees.

Where your question and Graham's question about fossilisation may be of concern to me personally is in the circumstances where, as a local authority, we impose the trust. For example, under the national challenge, if we imposed the trust on a school I wonder whether that same enthusiasm and energy would carry things forward, and whether the relationships in those circumstances would sustain themselves beyond a couple of years. The circumstances would be very different from the sort of buy-in that I have seen in the five Coventry schools, so that is a major caveat for me personally, in terms of the trust landscape. I may be wrong, but I am not yet convinced that that is the same scenario as the one we are describing here.

 

Q415 Fiona Mactaggart: One of the things that I am quite concerned about is whether it is really true that these relationships are more sustainable than other kinds of relationships. In a period of economic stress, will we see companies who signed up enthusiastically at a time when they obviously had the capacity to deal with it finding it harder later on? What are the prospects of that?

Linda Doyle: That is a point well made, but we try to focus schools' minds on that when they are setting up their trust. It is worth pointing out that, as with the examples represented here, it is normal to have several different partner organisations-four or five, something like that, not counting the representatives of the head teacher and the chair of governors. That is something that needs to be thought about and always has needed to be thought about in partnerships. If you partner with a local small business, they could go out of business, so you need to think about that and continually discuss with the organisation the amount of time that they can give.

It tends to be different people at different levels. There will be the trustee from the organisation, if it is providing one, and it may nominate governors. I have to say that every live trust that exists at the moment has chosen the minimum of two trust governors to go on the governing body. It does not have to be someone from that organisation, as Ron has already illustrated-it could be a nominated governor.

The other level is often some of the people from the organisation who are doing hands-on work with the school. If that has to be pulled back, hopefully there are other things that the school can do. It may wish to invite other partners to become involved. The original set-up is not set in stone; schools can modify as they go along and try not to lose that contact. These are difficult times. One assumes that they will get better again, but the schools may need to think about different partners or reining back the involvement.

 

Q416 Fiona Mactaggart: Are partners readily available? Is this an easy thing to recruit to? Is it something that people are queuing up for?

Linda Doyle: That will vary enormously. Not all partners provide governors, for example. Some partners do not wish to. If you have four or five partners and you are providing just two governors, obviously, not all of those partners will provide governors. Some do not choose to. They do not think that that is their strength or what they want to do with the school. They want to do more hands-on work at a different level. But it will be flexible as time goes on.

You asked whether people are queuing up. We have had examples where, after a trust has been set up, partners have been asking to join and then the trust has had to consider whether that is a good idea, or whether it does not chime with the aims and focus that it was hoping to work on.

 

Q417 Fiona Mactaggart: Are there any organisations that you think would be unsuitable to be part of a trust?

Chairman: Who will take that? No one? Nobody else thinks that there is anyone who is unsuitable?

Professor Ritchie: The criteria that the university has for engaging with its trust include decisions about the appropriateness of other trust partners, so we are very conscious of that and we have not gone with every trust that we have been invited to join. Part of our thinking is, crucially, that the values that bring us into this business are values that must be shared by other partners. So we would look at processes to ensure that that is the case in respect of those we would be associated with, formally, in these arrangements.

Linda Doyle: I am sure that I could think of lots of organisations or individuals who might be unsuitable partners, but one would hope that they would not be selected by the governing body in question. The basic minimum is that any business involved should be undertaking legal activities and, after that, it is down to governing body common sense, community sensitivities and all those issues. For example, a business might be doing business that did not chime with the ethos of the school. That early stage of discussions at the school, which takes a while, is absolutely vital. The more schools that are involved, the longer it would take, possibly. But that situation needs to be clear so that everybody is happy with who they are working with and how they are going to work together. For there to be success, that is vital.

Chairman: Have you finished?

Fiona Mactaggart: Yes.

Chairman: Paul first, then Graham, briefly, because this is Paul's question and I do not want his section to be stolen.

 

Q418 Paul Holmes: Linda has just said that we need to be absolutely clear, but I am not clear. It is rather like the situation with academies, where we repeatedly asked Ministers certain questions.

Do schools have a list from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, circulated through you, showing who is acceptable or not? Is a company that legally publishes pornography acceptable or not? Is a gambling company acceptable or not? Is a millionaire who wants to promote creationist Christian fundamentalism acceptable-clearly, he is, because he runs three academies in the north of England-or not? Is there any list or any guidance? Is there any clarity whatsoever?

Linda Doyle: There is certainly not a list. There is a pool of partners that the Office of the Schools Commissioner has helped to find, which comprises organisations that have expressed an interest in joining schools. Obviously, at the first sort, they are considered to be reasonably suitable. One of the roles within the contract that I am working on is to broker partnerships between those organisations and schools. Some will be a suitable match and some will not.

We do not carry out due diligence checks on all these partners-it would just not be practical to do so-but the governors have the final choice and within the Act-

 

Q419 Fiona Mactaggart: So who does? Sorry to interrupt you.

Linda Doyle: It is the same system as with specialist schools-the governors choose who they have. Should they regret their choice, the Act will help them. There are provisions to remove a trustee, and to remove the entire trust, should they wish to do so, even if it is a majority on the governing body. As a final resort, the Secretary of State has a reserve power to remove a trustee.

Ken Tonge: We must not forget the consultation process that goes into acquiring a trust, or the fact that the local authority can refer the proposal to the schools adjudicator if it disagrees with that. So there is some opportunity for local authorities to intervene if they feel that a trust is inappropriate.

Chairman: We do not want to confuse this with the academies.

 

Q420 Mr. Chaytor: Linda, what is the difference between a trust and a registered charity?

Linda Doyle: A trust is an incorporated charity-actually, that name is changing soon under the Companies Act-which is not a new category; it is an existing category. The trust registers, at the moment, both with Companies House and the Charity Commission, so there is dual oversight, if you like. It is responsible for itself and is not responsible for the school. In its memorandum and articles, which it must have, everything it does has to be for the advancement of education; that phrase is written in the Education and Inspections Act. It can be challenged if external organisations feel that it is doing something that is not for the advancement of education.

 

Q421 Mr. Chaytor: Would there not be an advantage for the constituent schools within the trust to be purely and simply a registered charity, not an incorporated charity?

Linda Doyle: I do not think I have the legal expertise to go into that.

 

Q422 Mr. Chaytor: They would become eligible for 17.5% VAT exemption immediately.

Linda Doyle: I am sorry, that is not my level of expertise.

 

Q423 Mr. Chaytor: In the 2006 Act, there is a reference to financial contributions from trust partners, and my recollection is that normally that would not be expected. I want to pursue this issue, because it is hard to imagine that if you have a large multinational company as one of the trust partners, in some way or another they will not make a financial contribution to the trust. Perhaps this is a question for John Clemence, John Hayward and Ken Tonge. Could you just talk us through this? Would you say unequivocally, hand on heart, that your private partners in the trust structure have not made contributions either financially or in kind to the working of the school?

John Clemence: First, no request was made of the partners on joining-none whatsoever-and no financial contribution was sought or received afterwards. In fact, because of the vagaries of partners which may have to move away at different times, for example, one of the trust's aims is to be financially independent.

Inevitably, what trust partners bring is their expertise, and with that expertise there may well be some gain in kind. Unilever, for example, donated science equipment that it no longer used to the school. That is a perfect illustration of something that happens, but it could happen regardless of whether the school was a trust school. Expertise and training in the use of software, which undoubtedly Phil could discuss, is inevitably finance in kind, but it is not finance on a regular basis or expected.

 

Q424 Chairman: John, you started off sounding rather defensive. I would think that if your partners gave you 5 million for a new building, you would be daft not to take it.

John Clemence: I would love it. All I am saying is that we did not go out and seek that.

Chairman: I am bouncing this back to David. Is that what you were after?

 

Q425 Mr. Chaytor: Yes. My recollection is that the Act made a reference to that because there was some concern in the original White Paper about the scale of opportunities for large donations to individual trusts which would give them a huge advantage. I believe that it was legislated against. You are saying that there are no explicit financial contributions but that there are contributions in kind, which would be expertise or equipment.

John Clemence: Yes.

 

Q426 Chairman: Can we add Ron to this? He seems to be pouring a lot of resource in, if it were actually priced.

Professor Ritchie: I understand that the trust guidance states that although there is not a requirement on trust partners to put in resource, there is nothing legally stopping their doing that. Certainly the contribution that the university makes is resource in like. It is undoubtedly the case that the partners make a contribution, but that does not seem in any sense inappropriate. We are not writing a cheque, but, unless you correct me, I do not think that there is anything to stop a partner from writing a cheque.

Linda Doyle: No. If I could come in here, the situation has not changed. A large company could give a donation to a school anyway, and many schools have charitable status-for example, with the parents' association-so that charitable giving applies. The Act does not change that situation at all, but I do not know of any example where that is happening on any considerable scale. Partners give time, and sometimes access to training courses. I can think of a business that gives school staff access to its IT courses-all those sorts of things. They tend to be small scale. If you added up all the time, I am sure that it would come to quite a large bill, but, legally, the situation has not changed at all.

John Hayward: I think that the answer is both no and yes. No, the trust did not ask for contributions at the time that it was formed, but yes, our head teachers are very entrepreneurial, and I am absolutely sure from speaking to them that they are looking for contributions in kind from trust partners.

Chairman: I am on the board of a university which shall remain nameless, and we rush around begging for money from anyone who will give it to us-apart from one or two, but never mind.

 

Q427 Mr. Chaytor: Ken, what about your trust?

Ken Tonge: I would be absolutely delighted if any of our partners wanted to send some money in our direction, but we engage with them because of their expertise and experience, rather than their money. We receive support in kind. For example Northumbria University has worked with us to form a bespoke masters degree for staff within the schools, and it is giving time and resources to that. That is the sort of thing that we want from it. We have never had any expectation of financial support.

 

Q428 Mr. Chaytor: Do you get equipment as well?

Ken Tonge: We do not get equipment, but it is a good idea.

 

Q429 Mr. Chaytor: I am not saying that it is a good thing or a bad thing. I am only curious to see the pattern and evolution. Maybe Linda is the person to ask this of, but what is the balance of primaries and secondaries among the 114 schools in the existing 57 trusts?

Linda Doyle: I will have to look those figures up. Of the 114, we have 84 secondary, 22 primary and eight special schools.

 

Q430 Mr. Chaytor: So, the pattern of the 57 trusts is a combination. Are there trusts that are solely partnerships among secondary schools?

Linda Doyle: No, there are not.

 

Q431 Mr. Chaytor: Do they tend to be clusters of secondaries and primaries?

Linda Doyle: Yes, both exist, definitely. Sometimes they have started with secondaries and primaries come in later. I think that this seems to be a rather larger step to primaries, than to secondaries. They tend to watch for a while. Another type of involvement is other schools being invited to be members of the trust as a first instance. That may develop and they may become trust schools later, if they are eligible; it is not possible if they are voluntary aided schools. That is certainly happening with some primaries, and sometimes independent and special schools, being on trusts. It is often the case with smaller schools. It is a rather large step to consider, and they may wish to be rather more on the outside to start with and then join in. The proportion of primaries is increasing.

 

Q432 Mr. Chaytor: In the 470 trusts that currently have inquiries on the table, is there any change in the balance between primary and secondary?

Linda Doyle: Out of the 366, we have 219 secondaries and 117 primaries. Just to get you up to date on the latest applications, of the 105 schools that sent in initial applications on Monday-this is new-we had 52 secondaries and 47 primaries. That shows an increasing balance and a welcome one. Some of those are quite large groupings of primary schools, with seven or eight primary schools together. It is quite unusual for a primary school to make the move on its own.

 

Q433 Mr. Chaytor: May I ask John about the local authorities' perspective? My recollection is that, as the proposals in the original 2005 White Paper were gradually translated into the 2006 Act, two things happened: the original concept of total autonomy of the trust school became gradually constrained and the strategic planning powers of local authorities were gradually strengthened. Is that fair comment and how has that played out in Coventry?

John Hayward: I think that that is fair comment on the changes. Obviously, we work in partnership with our head teachers, and the enthusiasm of our heads and chairs of governors in all five schools was critical to whether we could take the process forward. We need to keep things under review because it is an area that could change as things develop. I do not think that the relationship among those schools, the heads, the chairs of governors and the local authority has changed in the past 12 months as a result of the five schools becoming trusts. The relationships are pretty much the same, but it is a good question and one which is, perhaps, too early to reach a final view on.

 

Q434 Mr. Chaytor: But given the impact of demographics over the next five or 10 years, most local authorities will be looking to take places out of the system. If your local authority, for example, is faced with that dilemma, how will it deal with the trust school issue? What happens if, hypothetically, there is a trust that includes three or four secondary schools and the local authority decides that one of those secondary schools has to go? What is the legal process for doing that and what would the impact be on the trust? Who then owns the land occupied by the secondary school that is closing?

John Hayward: That is a good question, but, in terms of Coventry, it is one that I am not best placed to answer. We have done many calculations under Building Schools for the Future and we are expecting an increase in our population over the next 10 or 15 years. I am afraid that we have not had to face that question.

John Clemence: A reorganisation in my area-in other words, where my school is-would lead to some school closures, which would affect the trust schools.

 

Q435 Mr. Chaytor: So is that going through now?

John Clemence: Yes. They will be part of the consultation process and, as a trust school and a trust, we can feed back to the local authority. However, ultimately a trust school could easily close as a result. The land and the proceeds from the land would transfer back to the local authority.

 

Q436 Chairman: What if you did not want to close? Could you form a hard foundation or some other form of foundation to protect yourself against it?

John Clemence: If we did not want to close, we would try to do everything to stay open, as all schools and parents would.

 

Q437 Chairman: Yes, but are people looking at trust or foundation status in order to protect themselves from being the one that is picked on to close?

John Clemence: There is a potential belief that it might protect you, but it is an erroneous belief as it is not the case. Certainly, when we were consulting, I went to parents meetings and governing body meetings and that question did come up. People asked, "Will this protect us from having to change the system under a reorganisation?" The answer is it does not; you are part of the consultation.

 

Q438 Mr. Chaytor: But it is not exactly a level playing field, is it? When the local authority publishes its plans and the negotiation and lobbying starts, in terms of influencing the local authority's decision, having a school that has two or three big multinationals behind it and a school down the road that has no one-other than a handful of parents from low-income families-does not exactly create a level playing field, does it?

John Clemence: Arguably, yes.

 

Q439 Mr. Chaytor: Linda, may I ask about the 400 or so schools that are in the pipeline now? Have you made any assessment of the extent to which those schools are enthusiastic about becoming trust schools because they are facing a local reorganisation under which they might lose out?

Linda Doyle: We are very clear about that in the information that we disseminate and when we hold introductory conferences. At the beginning, we say that this is not a way of avoiding closure because we know that some schools look at the process for that reason. We like to make that very clear because it will not protect them; they are still maintained schools. At the time the White Paper was going through, there was publicity that said that trust schools would achieve independence from the local authority. That is absolutely not the case. The local authority still runs the school and has a responsibility for standards. It also has a responsibility for educational provision in the authority's area.

 

Q440 Mr. Chaytor: For schools that had made an initial application, if they were within a local authority that published proposals for reorganisation, would you continue to act as a broker for those schools, or would you put that application on ice until the reorganisation plan had been agreed?

Linda Doyle: We have a process that we go through when schools apply to be supported on this. They have to submit an expression of interest and all of our list-we have just put a new one together-will be forwarded to the DCSF, which makes some inquiries in the wider DCSF about what is happening in the areas of all of those schools. We are not allowed to continue to work with those schools where discussions are going on that might change the situation in the near future.

Chairman: Annette, were you going to talk about admissions?

 

Q441 Annette Brooke: Yes. I direct my first question to Ken and John. What is in it for you to be able to set your admissions policy?

Ken Tonge: It is an important feature of our partnership. In an all-through school, you want to be able to manage the education provision from age 3 to 19, and in our case through to adult education as well, so it makes absolute sense that the cohort of pupils you are working with remains stable. There are many purportedly all-through schools in this country that actually represent one primary school co-located with a secondary school, but many other primary schools feed into that.

Our two large first schools feed into two large middle schools, but we have had situations when we have lost people from the middle school because others were able to get into the high school because of the fairly standard oversubscription criteria, such as the need to give places to siblings or to those living closer. As a result of being in charge of our own admissions, we have put as the highest oversubscription criteria on the list, behind the statutory requirement to take children in care, attendance at another school in the trust. Therefore, if you go to one of the first schools, you have the best possible route into the middle school and high school, so that makes for continuity.

The second advantage is that, as part of the admissions process, which we found to be a bit invisible when managed at a distance, we eventually receive after a long process lists of pupils who are coming to us and numbers of those who are not. We now have full visibility of who is applying to us, what they represent and how they meet the criteria. We are able to manage that process and the appeals process afterwards.

 

Q442 Annette Brooke: So once the children are in, they are in.

Ken Tonge: That is the notion.

 

Q443 Annette Brooke: The initial admissions policy and how it is operated is obviously quite important.

John Clemence: We have a similar process, although that is not a result of the trust, because we had it before. The students are identified with our admissions policy for each of the schools in the catchment areas. That is the next stage, but that was in place before the trust. None of the schools has changed their admissions policy as a result of the trust, but the vision is similar to Ken's. The trust has enabled us to ensure more strategically that the numbers match up, because there was sometimes a mismatch. The number of places available in one of the phases was insufficient.

We also have three phases. In the first and third phases in my school we are able to meet the capacity, but not in the middle phase, so we have been working in partnership with the local authority to address that lack of capacity in the middle schools. We have become more strategically involved, although the trust has not led to a direct change in our admissions policy. There has been some increase in the admission numbers in two or three middle schools.

All of the schools have decided to retain the admissions services provided by the local authority even though they could have taken it on themselves. They were confident in the service provided by the local authority and felt that it was an administrative burden that they no longer wished to have. Another element was the genuine desire to be seen as neutral in that respect and part of the local authority system, rather than separate from it. That was a definite decision.

 

Q444 Annette Brooke: That is very interesting, because a point we discussed during the passage of the Bill was that perhaps one would feel more comfortable with an independent admissions policy if it were operated by the local authority. Ken, you indicated that it was a disadvantage to have your admissions policy operated by the local authority. I am not too clear on that, because we have just heard that there are advantages and disadvantages, but will access not be fairer if you do not have knowledge of the individual children at that point in the operation of the admissions policy?

Ken Tonge: We did not manage the process at all, so if someone moved out of the area after our admission limit was reached-270 at the high school, for example-and a place became available, there was no process in place to give the next person on the list access to it. It was just left empty until perhaps a pupil excluded from another school was given the place by the local authority. We did not serve those people who had expressed a preference to come to us in the first place, and now we will be able to. That is an example of an advantage to us.

 

Q445 Annette Brooke: So there was a disadvantage in a local authority not being speedy in response?

Ken Tonge: I think so. We are closer to the process. Let me add that the appeals process is still independent, because we are required to appoint an independent appeals panel for those people who consider over-subscription.

 

Q446 Annette Brooke: I will come back to that point in a moment. I would like to ask John Hayward a question. Have you have been working with the Office of the Schools Commissioner in terms of the encouragement that you have been giving to schools becoming trusts?

John Hayward: Yes.

 

Q447 Annette Brooke: Can you give us some indication of what the process was with your engagement with the schools commissioner?

John Hayward: This is a sensitive area. Obviously, I meet a lot of representatives of local authorities and talk with them about these things, and I think it would be fair to say that the Local Government Association and colleagues would probably feel that the recent exchanges between the Office of the Schools Commissioner and local authorities have changed the relationship between local government and central Government unhelpfully.

 

Q448 Chairman: In what sense?

John Hayward: I am not necessarily just speaking about the dialogue in Coventry, but I do not think the exchanges have been conducted in a way which local authorities have felt has recognised their long-standing role in trying to raise standards in their communities and representing local democracy.

 

Q449 Annette Brooke: Those are very interesting comments. What emphasis was placed by the schools commissioner on fair access to any schools that became trust schools?

John Hayward: That did not arise in our conversations.

 

Q450 Annette Brooke: Can you tell us in what way the schools commissioner was promoting the trust model?

John Hayward: I think it would be fair to say that the schools commissioner and their representatives feel very strongly about the value of diversity and choice, understandably perhaps; I am not seeking to complain about that. They have made their strength of feeling clear to us as a local authority and, I think, to other local authorities they have met.

 

Q451 Chairman: Reading between the lines, you are suggesting-this is not about Coventry, but across local authority opinion generally in England-that the commissioner has been leaning quite heavily on you.

John Hayward: I am not talking about Coventry. I am here also as a representative of local authorities by proxy, I suppose. I would prefer to stick to my original words. The relationship between central and local government has not been enhanced by the recent exchanges, as I talk to my colleagues-

 

Q452 Chairman: What recent exchanges are you talking about?

John Hayward: Well, as conversations have gone on between the Office of the Schools Commissioner and local authorities.

 

Q453 Chairman: Are those on the record?

John Hayward: No, mostly not, I would say.

 

Q454 Chairman: We would like you to be a little more enlightening on this, because the commissioner reports to Parliament through this Committee and it is our role to talk to the commissioner on a regular basis. If there is that unhappiness in the local government world, we ought to know about it.

John Hayward: Yes, there has been unhappiness in local government about some of those exchanges. I do not want to talk about that in terms of individuals or Coventry's local authority, but you asked the question and I am telling you what my belief is in terms of how local-

 

Q455 Chairman: But you are here talking about trusts and what you are not telling us is this. Is Sir Bruce Liddington leaning on local authorities to push them in the direction of forming trusts, in a way that they otherwise would not want to go?

John Hayward: You talked about being politicians earlier and you will understand, I guess, that any-

Chairman: Now you are moving into being a diplomat.

John Hayward: I would not want to use the words that you have used, but there is unhappiness about the relationship among local authorities. That is a reasonable way of describing it.

 

Q456 Chairman: Linda, do you think Sir Bruce is leaning on local authorities to move in a trust direction they do not really want to move in?

Linda Doyle: I do not think that I can bear witness to the conversations that the Office of the Schools Commissioner has been having with local authorities. I presume when John talks about recent discussions, he is putting them in the context of the national challenge. Is that correct, John?

John Hayward: No, I would not want necessarily to suggest that they are in that context. I have been talking to other local authorities for the past 12 months or so about such things.

 

Q457 Chairman: But John, if trusts are so great, as you have more or less said, it comes as a surprise to us when you suddenly say that Bruce Liddington is pushing them a bit hard. That is what you are saying, is it not? Or is he saying that if you do not do this you will not get an academy, or if you do not do that you will not get school buildings quickly in future? Is that the sort of dialogue?

John Hayward: I do not think I want to talk about it in those terms. I just think that local authorities would want me to say that they would value a more productive relationship with the Office of the Schools Commissioner in connection with such questions. That is probably as far as I feel I can go.

 

Q458 Annette Brooke: I am going to move on to the other person-I confess that I mix them up. The Office of the Schools Adjudicator produced a surprising report when he found that admissions policies were not being implemented fairly. I want to return to the earlier point about trust schools setting their own admissions policies. I shall ask Linda to start. Are there likely to be more breaches as you create more and more trust schools?

Linda Doyle: I do not think it fair immediately to link trust schools with the findings of Sir Philip Hunter's report. We have moved from the Bill to a statutory admissions code, and that was not the case when the White Paper was being discussed. It is obvious that schools must obey the law. I believe that Sir Philip's results show that a tremendous number of problems are caused by very small issues. The two greatest, I gather, are the definition of a sibling, and how to measure the distance that a child lives from the school. Those issues were involved in 2,000 breaches.

I attended one of Sir Philip's conferences in London on the recent admissions consultation that closed in October. He is working on some fall-back definitions. The statutory safeguards are in place now, and presumably there will be moves to ensure that schools obey them. He said that many breaches were misunderstandings, and presumably they will be sorted out.

 

Q459 Annette Brooke: Do you think that there is a case for the local authority to administer the admissions codes, that we might then feel more secure, and that anonymity should be introduced so that children are known only by their initials and judged on criteria?

Linda Doyle: I think some of the issues were in the consultation, including whether local authorities should have a strong role. Certainly, at the conference that I went to, opinions between local authorities differed on whether they wanted that role. The important thing is the change-there is a statutory code and it must be obeyed by all schools-and the checks and balances.

On the whole, as John described, trust schools are discussing their admissions criteria with their local authorities on the admissions forum. They have representation on the forum, as do all foundation schools. That does not mean that they can have a completely different set of rules, but they can discuss their own opinions. They cannot become selective, although some trust schools become trust schools as selective schools, and then the status quo is maintained.

 

Q460 Annette Brooke: If trust schools cross a range of local authorities-there is one application on the south coast at the moment-in what way can one be sure that links with the local community will be retained? In what sense will there be cohesion between the school's admission policy and the local authority, when the trust has been formed over hundreds of miles?

Linda Doyle: The admissions code applies to each school. The trust overreaching all those schools is a separate issue, in a way. Remember, we are dealing generally with separate governing bodies of separate schools, and they will be responsible for their own admissions. Trustees will not have anything to do with that, except that they will have partial membership of the governing body. It will not alter that. I know that the collaborative trust partly involved in your constituency covers schools in four or five different authorities. They will share certain issues, but each school in its own situation will be responsible to its local authority for its admissions code.

 

Q461 Fiona Mactaggart: We have talked about how being a trust school can strengthen relationships with other organisations. I am concerned, especially with admissions, that it could actually weaken relationships with local authorities. I have with me a letter from a head teacher to a director of children's services. It reads: "I therefore would be grateful if you wish to communicate with us in future that you use an appropriate tone in your letters and communications. There can be no partnership if you continue to confuse us with one of your schools. I am sure that you would not have written to Eton College in this way." That shows a degree of tension between a school and a local authority, including over admissions. I am uneasy about whether that could be a feature of trust schools. What do you think about that, John?

John Hayward: In terms of initial admissions, it is early days, but there is no evidence in Coventry that the five schools went into trust status because they saw it as an area in which they wanted to change their relationship with the local authority. I remain optimistic about that. The other issue with admissions is in-year transfers, which is a particularly sensitive area. One of our schools is looking to become an admissions authority and seeking to explore what in-year transfer procedures they might want. I understand that, but from our point of view, if all five trust schools had their own in-year transfer procedures, it would make it very difficult for the other 14 schools. So that is an area where we are seeking to ensure that the partnerships are maintained, and that we have systems that all 19 heads feel they can operate equally. That apart, however, I see no evidence that heads are looking to change their approach to local authorities.

 

Q462 Fiona Mactaggart: Does anyone else want to comment?

Ken Tonge: I would be delighted to. I am fortunate, in that I work for an intelligent and enlightened local authority with senior leadership that has recognised the need for diversity in provision, and that for school improvement to happen we must model different kinds of provision for different areas. We have had nothing but support from the local authority. That is equally the case with admissions. There is no tension between us. As a head teacher with 17 years' experience, I must say that my working relationship with the local authority, as leader of a trust partnership, has been closer than ever. It is very interested in what we are doing and keen for us to do well. If we do well, it is to its credit as well as ours. A message has come through about antipathy between local authorities and schools, but that has not been the case with us.

 

Q463 Chairman: And the schools commissioner has been rattling around, has he?

Ken Tonge: The schools commissioner visited us last Friday and the director of children's services, Trevor Doughty, took every opportunity to clear his diary and meet him. There has been a relationship between the two.

Professor Ritchie: I would like to make an observation about the contribution of partners. In terms of university and further education college partners, where we have relationships with all schools in a local authority, it is really important for us to make sure that the right checks and balances and compliances are in place. Certainly, in the trusts that we have been involved in, we were really clear about the role of the local authority. Because it is a partner anyway, this is almost a non-issue, but I see one of the partner's roles as being to ensure that things are properly conducted. In some respects, in terms of where we sit with the Bridge Learning Campus, with two academies just down the road, the issue is somewhat different, but we are very keen that an appropriate admissions policy is in place. I have checked that, as chair of the trustees, and we know the local authority is fully supportive of that. The trust partners can play a constructive role in ensuring that what you are worried about is less of a concern.

Chairman: I think we must move on. We have one section left to do and Paul is going to lead us.

 

Q464 Paul Holmes: We have already covered most of the questions I was going to ask. So, just to revisit them briefly, the Government said of trust schools that raised standards will flow from the involvement of partners, whether those partners are business, charity, FE, HE or schools, and so forth. I am still not clear why you have to set up trusts to achieve that. Going back to John's school, our briefing tells us that you have a long, successful history of work experience, links with industry and so on, but you thought that trust status would improve that. Well, why? If you were doing it so well already, why?

John Clemence: The answer is probably that we were doing it well, but we could always do it better. Let me go back to an earlier question about how we sustain the belief. That is a question for all schools: how do they sustain their constant improvement to move forward? I suppose the answer is that some of the systemisation and the guarantees behind the trust have enabled some things to happen which hitherto have not been possible. That may be work experience placements, attending a Unilever lecture scheme, Unilever coming into the school to give a lecture to A-level students, which it is doing next week, or Unilever providing every A-level student with a mentor. All those various schemes are now built into the infrastructure of the trust. They were not there before. It is early days, but they will have an impact.

Equally, the collaborative nature of the trust-it is one based on collaboration like Ken's-means that schools are guaranteeing the entitlement of a curriculum for all the youngsters in that trust, which was not necessarily apparent beforehand, because the staff are working more closely together. We are exchanging staff across schools. We have built in exchanges to ensure that if a school finds itself-I will give you a perfect example-without an English teacher at the start of the term, the other schools assist to avoid situations arising where the youngsters will suffer. That is a more mature form of collaboration than we perhaps had previously, because there is a much stronger bond which is legally driven because of the trust. There are clear areas where it is raising standards through collaboration. Standards have been toughened and sharpened and expectations have been raised.

 

Q465 Paul Holmes: But you could have done that without the formal status of trust?

John Clemence: Yes, absolutely. We could have done it without, but we did not or, rather, not fully. This has given us fresh impetus and fresh direction. The challenge is to sustain that and constantly redevelop it.

 

Q466 Paul Holmes: We heard from John about the emphasis from the Government on choice and diversity. How does any of this improve choice? If you are a parent who is not within the catchment area or the admissions policy of the trust, you have no choice, have you? You cannot get into that system. It is not increasing choice in the slightest for parents.

John Clemence: That last bit has been a fascinating part of the discussion, not that the rest of it was not. You are right in many respects. In Bedfordshire the local authority has embraced the trust development. In the initial days, when it was new, we did not understand it, we were going forward on the trust when the legislation was not actually in place, and there was suspicion. No doubt about it, there was suspicion in various areas. There are now three trusts operational in Bedfordshire and three further ones, so there is much more diversity.

It is not just north Bedfordshire that has a trust which no one else can join. There are a number of trusts springing up, as well as two academies in the pipeline, so there is diversity, but inevitably, there are still limitations. The people who wished to get into my school previously but lived in a different area and could not access it, still cannot. They would argue that there is no diversity or freedom of choice and so on, but there was none under the previous system either.

 

Q467 Paul Holmes: The final question is one we have already touched on, so we will go through it quickly. Linda is probably best placed to answer it. The rules say that the trust can control the school and appoint the governors, but you are saying that all or the vast majority of trusts have gone for the minority model, where they just put one or two people on the board of governors?

Linda Doyle: Every trust school that exists at the moment has chosen the minority route, and most of them choose the minimum number, which is two, in the same way as foundation schools before had two foundation governors. That is what has tended to happen. So that would mean that in most cases, not even every trust partner would be represented. If there is a group of schools, they can make an individual decision as to how many governors they would like to have provided by the trust. It does not have to be the same for everyone. We have always imagined that more governors would be requested by a governing body in areas where that was an issue for that school, because some schools find it difficult to recruit governors.

Chairman: We must go on to Every Child Matters. Who is leading? Annette.

 

Q468 Annette Brooke: I am very enthusiastic about the Every Child Matters agenda. There were initially problems with tying schools fully into it, but that has been strengthened by legislation. I think I need to ask this of most people: what evidence is there that the trust model is being used to deliver the Every Child Matters outcomes? Perhaps I ought to say to Linda that I am terribly enthusiastic about the trust that has already been formed in my constituency, which certainly does that.

Chairman: Very short answers, as we are pushed for time.

Professor Ritchie: The Worle and Westhaven Trust that I mentioned in my introduction was set up to focus on the Every Child Matters agenda. The partners are chosen to ensure that young people's well-being, as well as their achievements, are at the centre of what we do. There is a big drive on notions of learning power and emotional intelligence, which bring in a whole range of different ways of supporting the agenda. The fact that the primary care trust is there as a formal partner reinforces that.

The "all-through" Bridge Learning Campus, equally, has the outcomes as a clear driver for choices that we are making, in particular the focus on inclusion. The fact that we have a special school on site and that there will be what we a calling a student support centre, rather than a pupil referral unit, means that multi-agency work will be the name of the game, and that that agenda will be key to what the campus tries to do.

Linda Doyle: For every school that wants to become a supported school on the programme, part of the application is to demonstrate how what it is going to do will add to each of the five agenda items on Every Child Matters.

John Hayward: I think all our schools have been very interested in this area. Three of them have directly chosen trustees who can take the agenda forward. Something you might want to explore is the fact that one of the schools was disappointed. It had secured the trusteeship from a primary care trust, but apparently, legally, it cannot do that.

 

Q469 Chairman: Is that right? Primary care trusts cannot be partners?

Linda Doyle: This would be news to at least 16 primary care trusts.

John Hayward: Having said that, it is a very positive area. We will speak afterwards.

 

Q470 Chairman: May I quickly ask you to the centre, Phil-I feel we have neglected you a little-and Ron? You are both involved, certainly Ron, with both a trust and an academy. Are you involved in an academy, Phil ?

Phil Neal: Not directly.

 

Q471 Chairman: Let us ask your opinion anyway. If you are thinking of getting involved as an institution, as a university, what is the difference between the quality of the relationship with an academy and that with a trust?

Professor Ritchie: As I said earlier, we have tried to learn from the experience that we had with academies to inform the way that we work with trusts. As a university, there really is not a significant difference between the mode of operation and the contribution that we make to academies and trusts. We have different levels of engagement: we are an education partner with one academy and a sponsor for another. In essence, the university's contribution is aimed at being similar. It is strategic, as I have emphasised. We look at meeting local needs and try to negotiate the contribution of the partner to the particular circumstances of either the academy or the trust.

 

Q472 Chairman: But when you look at what the trust gives you, you are restricted, are you not? Of course you have to meet the admissions policy and pay the normal rates and conditions for teachers. There are great impositions on you to be just like a regular community school. On the other hand, when you are working with an academy, you can fix your own terms of hiring and firing, employing teachers, their hours and all the rest. Is that not something that you would like to do in trusts?

Professor Ritchie: In some respects, the innovation opportunities with academies are greater, but to go back to the point about what we have learned about the nature of innovation in schools with partner involvement, we can find creative ways of being innovative in the trust context. Were the head teachers of trusts or academies to answer that question, they may see it differently. I am saying that from the university's perspective, the contribution that we seek to have is not significantly different across those two different structures.

Phil Neal: When I go into Sharnbrook, I represent Capita and have a responsibility to make a difference, because I am actually tied into that structure. It is important to me when I am there that I am influencing that school. The connections that I have with all other schools are not as strong or formal. That has really been said before.

Chairman: Thank you very much for this evidence session. I am sure you realise that we have tried to cover a lot of territory, and we have learned a great deal. Will you continue the dialogue? This inquiry is not finished, and if there is anything that you would have liked to say to us but you were not asked the appropriate question, please be in contact with us. Thank you.