Education and Adoption Bill

Written evidence submitted by Peterborough Diocese Board of Education (EAB 25)

Context

1. Peterborough Diocese Board of Education (DBE) supports 102 schools and academies serving nearly 20,000 children and young people across the local authorities of Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Rutland. Currently around one third of our schools have converted to academy status. We have shown, and continue to show, flexibility in multi-academy trust arrangements that our schools enter into with non-church schools providing the Church school character is properly protected.

2. Around 86% of our schools are classed as small rural schools. The DBE has for several years encouraged governing bodies to consider collaboration as a way of securing the survival of small schools in our village communities. A number of our schools are in federations with non-Church schools, for example, the Finedon federation, the Silverstone federation and the Clipston federation. We also have several federations of church schools: Federation can be a very effective way of securing school improvement.

3. We are keen for every child in our schools to achieve their God-given potential to flourish. Indeed, under the SIAMS framework, to be an outstanding church school, a school has to be effective in terms of pupil outcomes. Two years ago the DBE appointed a lead Ofsted inspector as a part-time school effectiveness advisor to support schools in terms of their whole school effectiveness. The Diocese provides a wide range of professional courses to support school improvement. Eighty one percent of our schools are, in Ofsted terms, good or outstanding which is better than the averages in the three authorities that we serve.

Our concerns about the Bill

4. 66A Power of Secretary of State to require governing body to enter into arrangements

2(b) Consultation with appropriate Diocesan Authority

Consultation is only about taking soundings, it does not mean the views have to have a bearing on the outcome. The DBE has had an active role pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding in assisting our schools to conduct due diligence in the academy conversion process. It is important for school leaders to be fully aware of the changed roles and responsibilities that academy status brings and not merely focus on the perceived benefits.

5. Trustees of the land and buildings have a legal duty to ensure that the objects of the trust are upheld and for most Church of England schools this means ensuring that

education is carried out that is in accordance with the principles and tenets of the Church of England so the DBE is duty bound to agree the suitability of a sponsor of a Church of England school and we would wish to see this reflected in this clause.

6. (5) Appointment of interim executive members

Interim Executive Boards are often appointed when a school is in crisis and decisions need to be made about its future. It is imperative that the legislation reflects the need for any IEB to take into account a school’s religious character.

7. 9(2) Consultations about identity of Academy sponsor

Again, consultation is only about taking soundings, it does not mean the views have to have a bearing on the outcome.

8. There is the danger of the dilution of the faith character through the academy conversion process. Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton town was a Voluntary Aided school that was ‘satisfactory’ in Ofsted terms when it was sponsored by the David Ross Education Trust (DRET) as a Wave 1 academy. Although our DBE enjoys a positive relationship with DRET, Malcolm Arnold Academy no longer has a faith majority in terms of governance. The school is also, five years later, in an Ofsted category. Becoming an academy is no guarantee of improving pupil outcomes.

9. The DBE should have the authority to agree the suitability of a sponsor so that the faith ethos of the school is properly protected and the Governance arrangements should reflect the status of the school so that the diocese is represented appropriately at Member and (usually) Director level.

10. Peterborough Diocese Board of Education fully supports action to improve outcomes for children; we believe that the amendments suggested above will enable us to work more effectively in partnership to achieve that objective.

July 2015

Prepared 14th July 2015