System for overseeing and approving academies should be more transparent - MPs

Regional schools commissioner, Dr Tim Coulson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Regional schools commissioner, Dr Tim Coulson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

MPs have called for the system which oversees academies, and is likely to approve the conversion of dozens more in our region, to be more transparent.

Regional schools commissioners (RSCs) were introduced in 2014 to make decisions about current and prospective academies, with Tim Coulson, the RSC for the East of England and North East London, approving the controversial conversion of the Hewett School last year.

His role is set to expand when he is given the power to decide the fate of schools that fall into the new 'coasting schools' category.

However, in a report published today, the Education Select Committee said the system, which works alongside the schools inspectorate Ofsted and local councils, was 'now complex and difficult for many of those involved in education, not least parents, to navigate'.

The report said there was 'a paucity of useful information available online about the work of headteacher boards', which advise RSCs, and said, although there was a commitment to publish more detailed minutes, decision-making frameworks should also be published so they are made transparently.

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The committee called for north-east London to be removed from the region that covers our area, and for a formal complaints and whistleblowing procedure to be created, so decisions can be challenged or reviewed.

Roy Perry, from the Local Government Association, said councils were concerned RSCs 'still lack the capacity and local knowledge to have oversight of such a large, diverse and remote range of schools'.

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He added: 'The LGA opposes significant powers relating to education being given to an unelected body with parents and residents unable to hold it to account at the ballot box.'

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: 'Regional Schools Commissioners are using their local knowledge to hold schools to account and thanks to that expertise, and the support of headteacher boards, they are able to take swift and targeted action to tackle under-performance rather than schools being left to stagnate under local authority control.'

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