Statement to Schools on Academies
25th September 2017
When the Bishop and Trustees decided to establish four diocesan Multi Academy Trusts there were a number of motivating factors. These included:
- To preserve and develop the Catholic identity and mission of our schools and embedding them more directly into the Diocesan structure, culture and mission; as communities of formation and new evangelisation.
- To group schools together in order to avoid ‘silo’ mentalities by enabling mutual collaboration, support, governance and benefits for the sake of the whole;
- Facilitating structures, programmes and career paths that can help recruit, form, retain and develop Catholic teachers and Catholic leaders;
- To enable a wider sharing of resources, good practices and personnel;
- To offer economic gains through the purchase of common services;
- To bring about school improvement, increase social mobility and address disadvantage more effectively;
- To ensure a destination for any school which might fall into an OFSTED category.
Although many of these still remain as the key objectives, the primary driver for schools’ agreement to convert was the external political expectation that all schools would become academies. It appears that this political pressure has now substantially disappeared.
Following discussions with staff from the Regional Schools Commissioners office we were advised at the start of term that the furthering of the academy programme is no longer an absolute priority for the Department for Education. It appears that the Secretary of State is only minded to ensure that each school has an adequate model for school improvement, that the gap is narrowed for disadvantaged pupils and that there is an academy destination for any school falling into an OFSTED category. We have established that similar messages have been given to the CES and diocesan officers in several other dioceses around the country, as well as to officers of Anglican dioceses and directors of several academy chains and are advised an announcement is due shortly.
Owing to the stark financial pressures our schools are and will face and the apparent lack of political motivation to convert to become an academy, the Bishop and Trustees have decided that until the picture becomes clearer around public policy on this issue, it would be irresponsible to press on regardless. The Bishop and Trustees have therefore decided to take a prudential pause in the academy conversion programme until the political outlook is more certain.
Once the political picture has been clarified, we can work together to establish the most appropriate partnerships and structures needed to achieve the strengthening of the Catholic life and mission of our schools, the development and retention of Catholic teachers and leaders, whilst ensuring our schools continue to strive to be places of academic excellence.
We thank you for your commitment, trust and patience. We will endeavour to update you as soon as we have received any further information.
There will no doubt be many questions arising from this notification. It would be appreciated if MAT Directors and Interim Executive Principals could use their next working group meeting to formulate them before discussion takes place with CASO staff. This news will also be a major discussion item at the Heads’ and Governor Briefings next month and again it will be useful to have questions/comments in advance.
Stephen Morgan Academies Conversion Project Leader and Oeconomus
Edmund Adamus Adviser to the Episcopal Vicar for Education/DSC
Catherine Hobbs Director for Education