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This conference focused on the future of the school system in England, with Government setting out plans in 2022 for all schools to either be part of or have plans to join a multi-academy trust (MAT) by 2030.
It took place following the Department for Education’s published guidance on Commissioning High-Quality Trusts, detailing how decisions will be made regarding the creation, consolidation, and growth of academy trusts.
It was an opportunity to bring stakeholders together with policymakers to explore the shape and design of the school system in England, looking at meeting local needs and whether the focus should be on growing trusts, the ways in which school and trust leaders can work collaboratively with Government and local authorities, and how the quality of trusts can be measured through the new framework.
The conference also took place following:
- the DfE’s Academies Regulatory and Commissioning Review, which focused on regulatory reform, as well as the commitment to create new regional ‘development networks’ to support growing trusts
- the opening of applications for the Trust Capacity Fund to encourage academy trusts to take on schools from underperforming areas
- the creation of 15 new free schools by the DfE in areas of the country where education outcomes are considered to be the weakest
Delegates also had the opportunity to consider the role of MATs in curriculum design and raising attainment, as well as the regulation and governance of trusts moving forward amid rising concerns surrounding accountability.
Further sessions discussed the DfE’s decision not to introduce Ofsted inspections for MATs, following Ofsted’s review which found that the current inspection model does not hold MATs ‘sufficiently accountable’.
Overall, the agenda included discussion on:
- quality and growth: exploring best practice for the growth, consolidation and creation of trusts - assessing the growing role of MATs and the power held by their leaders
- regulation of trusts: the impact of Ofsted’s limited power to inspect beyond school-level - opportunities and challenges of a suggested single independent regulator to investigate the quality of trusts
- accountability: the role of Ofsted moving forward - creating strong trust governance - examining the use of feedback from parents and local authorities within trust decision-making
- the conversion process: opportunities and challenges with conversion - supporting the incorporation of struggling schools - examining the process of matching schools
- attainment: the role trusts can play in raising attainment and engagement of pupils - supporting and improving struggling schools - aligning school and trust provision with the needs of local communities
- the wider school system: individual school identity within trusts - the future place and role of single-academy and smaller trusts, individual schools, faith and selective schools
- the future of England’s school system: key policy priorities moving forward - implementing best practice approaches in the continued growth of trusts
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from the CMA; DfE; HMRC; Home Office; NAO; and Ofsted.