Education and Adoption Bill

Written Evidence submitted by the Catholic Education Service (CES) (EAB 05)

Executive summary

· The evidence is being submitted by the Catholic Education Service (CES) on behalf of the 20 Catholic dioceses across England and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

· The CES broadly welcomes the Bill and its aim to raise standards in education however we do not support sponsored academies as the only solution to inadequate schools.

· We believe it is essential that consultation is undertaken with the appropriate diocese and school trustees before determining any action to tackle coasting or inadequate schools.

· We welcome the provision in the Bill for the appropriate consultation of school trustees and diocese when identifying an academy sponsor.

Introduction

1. The CES represents 2156 Voluntary Aided, Academy and Independent schools in England on national education policies. Of the 2024 maintained Catholic schools in England, 386 are academies. These are often found as part of multi-academy trusts. Catholic schools on average outperform other schools at both GCSE and in Ofsted Inspections.

2. There are 20 Catholic dioceses in England, each led by a diocesan Bishop, who is responsible for ensuring that Catholic schools are conducted in accordance with Catholic Canon Law. The Diocese is a long-term strategic partner with the State in the provision of schools, and the Bishop’s recognition in numerous Education Acts as the ‘appropriate diocesan authority’ for all Catholic schools illustrates this. In each diocese the Bishop appoints a Diocesan Schools’ Commissioner to lead the team that supports Catholic schools. Catholic schools are run in accordance with their trust deed. The trust deeds states the legal duties of the dioceses and schools’ trustees to preserve the Catholic character of the school. This reflects the Church ownership of the school land and buildings.

3. Given the Church’s investment and historic stake in Catholic schools, dioceses and school trustees have the expertise and the mandate to make informed decisions regarding standards in Catholic schools.

Sections 2, 4, 5 & 6 - Importance of consultation relating to intervention powers

4. The Bill grants greater powers of intervention to the Secretary of State in a range of circumstances. The intention is that these powers, and existing rarely used powers of the Secretary of State, will become routinely used by the new Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs).

5. These powers lack the safeguards associated with similar powers used by local authorities, but may well become as widely used by the RSCs.

6. We are concerned that the powers given to the new RSCs may cut across existing working practice. Local authorities and Department for Education officials who currently make decisions about school support understand the dioceses’ legal duties to preserve and develop the Catholic character of their school.

7. In particular we are concerned about new powers granted to RSCs under Section 5 of the Bill. Usually an IEB is put in place following discussion between the local authority and the diocese, with carefully considered agreements as to its operation, including in relation to its members. To do this the diocese and local authority agree a memorandum of understanding (see Appendix 1.) This enables the school to continue to comply with its trust deed through a Church appointed majority on the IEB. Our concern is that an RSC would unintentionally cut across this established arrangement.

8. Therefore, it is important that the Bill, and associated regulations and guidance, explicitly recognise the legal duties that dioceses and schools’ trustees have to preserve the Catholic character of the school.

Section 7 - Duty to make an Academy order

9. In the case of an inadequate school the Secretary of State must make an Academy order (Section 7). We are concerned that the Secretary of State is removing her discretion to consider alternative options that might be more appropriate for local circumstances.

10. We agree that in many situations academy conversion with a sponsor or as part of a multi-academy trust can be effective to support a school to raise educational standards. However, in some circumstance there may be other solutions that are more educationally effective.

11. Sometimes, it will be inappropriate or practically challenging for an inadequate school to become an academy. For example, a very small school in a rural setting may struggle to find a sponsor or multi academy trust to support it.

12. There are many examples where the diocese has drawn on its expertise to successfully raise standards in a Catholic school using interventions other than an academy conversion. St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Crayford was given an overall grade 4 with Special measures following its Ofsted inspection in May 2012. As an alternative to forced academy conversion, the Archdiocese of Southwark brokered a support programme led by the Headteacher of St Catherine’s Catholic Secondary School in Crayford. The Headteacher used expertise in a number of Catholic schools in Bexley to improve the school and in June 2013 the school received an overall grade 2 from Ofsted. The support programme was so successful that all Catholic schools in Bexley (7 primary schools, 2 secondary schools and 1 sixth form college) formed the Corpus Christi Partnership which is a school improvement and support board where all schools are committed to collaborative working and supporting schools in areas where support is needed.

13. Any decisions regarding academy conversion should be arrived at following a full and proper consultation with the trustees and diocese for all Church schools. The consultation should take place before any decision to make the Academy order.

Section 9 – Consultation about academy sponsors

14. We welcome the provision on the face of the Bill that the Secretary of State must consult with the trustees of the school and the appropriate religious body, which in the case of Catholic schools is always the local diocese.

15. By consulting with the relevant diocese, there is a guarantee that the sponsor will not contradict the school or academy’s trust deeds and utilises the experience and expertise of the diocese.

16. One such example is in the Diocese of Hallam. The diocese has set up the Hallam Schools Partnership Academy Trust, known locally as the ‘Safe Haven Trust’, to sponsor inadequate Catholic schools. When a school is found to be inadequate by Ofsted or identified as high risk by the diocese, it is taken into the Safe Haven Trust. The Safe Haven Trust holds regular meetings, brokers support and monitors the academies to raise standards. Once the academy has reached the required standards, it then leaves the trust, creating space for other schools which require support. The success of the Safe Haven Trust can be attributed to the strong support and attention provided by the diocese.

17. The Safe Haven Trust has successfully raised standards in two schools in the past two year. Both schools were judged as requiring special measures by Ofsted in 2013. These schools became academies and were incorporated into the Safe Haven Trust. The diocese, through the Safe Haven Trust, helped drive significant improvement in both of the schools, making changes to the leadership and governance. Both schools were judged to be ‘good’ in their first inspection as an academy.

Appendix 1

CATHOLIC EDUCATION SERVICE

Model Agreement with a Local Authority in respect of an IEB in a Catholic School

Diocese of [................] and

[............................ Local Authority]

Memorandum of Understanding relating to the proposed establishment of an Interim Executive Board at a Catholic School

..................... Catholic School

Preamble

[.............. Local Authority] has made formal proposals to exercise its powers under section [65 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006]*, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, to provide for the governing body of [............. Catholic School] to consist of Interim Executive Members under Schedule [6]* of that Act.

[............. Catholic School] was founded by and is part of the Catholic Church. It is a Catholic School in accordance with canon 803 of the Code of Canon Law, recognised by and subject to the jurisdiction of the [Bishop of ..............]. [............. Catholic School] is in the trusteeship of the [Diocese of .............] and maintained by the [..................................... Local Authority].

Agreement

This Memorandum of Understanding records formally the commitment of the [Diocese of .............] and [..................................... Local Authority] to safeguard the Catholic character of the School.

Accordingly, in the event of an Interim Executive Board being established, it is agreed that:

1. the terms of appointment of all Interim Executive Members are to include terms that the Members are to secure that:

a. the Catholic character of the school is preserved and developed, and

b. the school is conducted in accordance with the school’s instrument of government (except in relation to the composition of the governing body) and the school’s trust deed;

2. initially and at any time during the existence of an Interim Executive Board the majority of Interim Executive Members and any person nominated to be Chairman thereof are to be appointed from among those persons nominated by the [Bishop of .............];

3. if a shadow governing body is at any time appointed for the school, all shadow foundation governors are to be appointed from among those persons nominated by the [Bishop of ..............].

Dated [..........................]

…………………………………….. ………………………………………

[Director of Education] [Director of Education]

on behalf of the on behalf of the

[...................... Local Authority] [Diocese of ....................]

*in Wales: [14 of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013] and [1] respectively.

July 2015

Prepared 2nd July 2015