Regional School Commissioners are a “pragmatic approach” to the expanding workload of academies, but transparency was one of a number of areas that remain a concern, according to an Education Select Committee report.
This comes as a conclusion to the inquiry into the role of RSCs, which also found that accountability and working relationships are areas that need to improve in order to “continue with progress towards appropriate intermediate structures between Whitehall and individual schools”.
According to Education Select Committee’s inquiry, the regions covered by each Regional School Commissioner had been chosen so that each represented “a broadly balanced set of responsibilities” for them.
Ben Durbin, National Foundation for Educational Research, noted that some of the commissioners have substantially larger jobs to do than others when it comes to not only the numbers of underperforming school in their areas that they need to tackle, but the capacity within the system in their areas to tackle those schools: “You have this catch-22 whereby if you already have some underperforming sponsors or underperforming schools in the area then, by the same notion, you do not have the capacity in the area to turn them around”.
The National Foundation for Educational Research provided some quantification of these differences between the regions, including:
- The extent of academisation—which DfE figures suggest ranges from 15.1% in Lancashire and West Yorkshire to 30% in South West England;
- The number of schools that may eventually be classed as either ‘coasting’ or below the floor standard—estimated to range from 145 in the North of England to 311 in East Midlands and the Humber; and
- The availability of good sponsors who are ready to take on new schools—the ratio of ‘schools requiring action’ to ‘sponsors with good potential to take on new schools’ varies from 4.3:1 in South Central England and North West London to 16.3:1 in Lancashire and West Yorkshire, which NFER describes as “especially challenging”.
In relation to this, the DfE stated that “as the role of the RSCs is further embedded and developed, resourcing and workloads will be constantly reviewed to ensure that they are able to provide sufficient oversight and take swift and decisive action”.
The RSC regional structure is different from Ofsted’s, this concern being raised by Sir Michael Wilshaw as well, who said it was a “disappointment” that the regions are not coterminous. Ofsted’s submission to the inquiry stated that the difference in some cases “hindered engagement”, and these were described by Sean Harford, Ofsted national director, as “logistical issues” for the inspectorate.
The document also highlights that there is currently “confusion about the role of the Head Teacher Boards, including whether they are decision-making bodies or purely a source of advice for the RSC”, urging the DfE to clarify it as it is a “crucial component of ensuring there is suitable accountability for decisions made”.
Read the full report here.