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L-R: Ben Howlett - MP for Bath, Stephen Ravenscroft – Partner, Education at Stone King, Lord Nash – Parliamentary Under Secretary for Schools, Ciara Campfield – Solicitor Education – Stone King, Roger Inman – Partner and Head of Education – S

Lord Nash presents 'education wish list'

The future of multi-academy trusts lies in standardisation and leadership development, says education secretary

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 25, 2016 | People, policy, politics

This was the message from Education Secretary Lord Nash to the Chief Executives of more than 20 multi-academy trusts (MATs) who attended a ‘2020 Forum’ organised by educational law specialists Stone King.

The event entitled ‘The Wish List’ at Portcullis House in Westminster, was held to give school leaders a clearer understanding of the future of the government’s education policy.

Keynote speaker Lord Nash, who plays a key role in driving educational policy, thanked the school leaders for all their hard work to date. He told the forum that the school system is undergoing radical changes but said standardisation is critical to ensure the future success of MATs: 

“We’re in exciting times,” he said. “This is the biggest transformation of the school system for many years, and schools can no longer be little islands. Through academisation we aim to turn little islands into well organised structures.” 

Lord Nash highlighted the importance of leadership development and placed emphasis on the creation of much stronger, more corporate boards, with the financial and commercial aspects of education requiring strengthening.

Other topics that were discussed included the ongoing development of academies, governance, funding and faith schools. Delegates had the opportunity to hear about the likely themes in forthcoming strategy papers, and to raise issues about the treatment of pensions and school land upon conversion and the particular difficulties encountered in the transfer of academies between MATs. The role of local governance was discussed in detail, with much debate about the role and powers of local governing bodies or advisory boards.

Trust executives looked at the challenges MATs face going forward around capacity to grow, and the rate and environment in which they are expected to expand. A number of attendees suggested that questions around growth should focus on ‘how you grow’ as opposed to ‘how big you grow’ and said school leaders should be concerned with the type of educational establishments coming into the MAT.

Attendees expressed concerns around the willingness of primary schools to join MATs which consist of wholly or mainly secondary schools, and how the line of reporting for a primary school to what was seen as a secondary-based MAT was proving to be off-putting in many cases. They debated what impact such resistance might have on the future of the academisation programme and called for clarity on the ideal model and how this could be communicated to prospective schools. 

Stephen Ravenscroft, a Partner in the Education Team at Stone King, commented:  “This event allowed school leaders to have a superb opportunity to set out their vision for the future development of the Academies sector. Lord Nash listened attentively to concerns expressed. The 2020 Forum, established to provide an opportunity for school leaders to meet and discuss, on Chatham House rules, key themes is going from strength to strength and is adding real value to the work of the largest MATs.” 

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