Nicky Morgan to tighten academy regulation

Posted by Tom Walker in

In one of her first major announcements since taking office as Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan has pledged to tighten rules on who can run academies and free schools. Ms Morgan also announced that she would appoint an education commissioner for Birmingham, who would report directly to the education secretary in addition to Birmingham City Council's chief executive.

This announcement follows the trojan horse scandal in which urgent reviews found evidence for the instigation of a hard line extremist Islamic ethos in a number of schools in Birmingham.

The fiasco raised questions around the level of autonomy granted to academies, which many claim leaves the system vulnerable to abuse by those looking to subvert the ethos towards an extreme ideological stance. The academies, under the current system, are not accountable to local authorities (in this case Birmingham council), instead reporting directly to the Department for Education.

The government-commissioned inquiry into the trojan horse scandal, led by former counter terror police chief Peter Clarke, noted that whilst Mr Clarke "neither specifically looked for nor found evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism", there was evidence that key staff and governors endorsed or failed to challenge extremist views. Further to this, the governors "used the argument about raising standards to justify increasing the influence of faith in those schools" to the extent that teachers feared students were learning to be "intolerant of difference and diversity".

Ms Morgan noted that the report's findings were troublesome but rejected her opposition counterpart's claims that the Government's "chaotic, deregulated, fractured" education reforms increased the risks of pupils being radicalised.

Recommendations of the inquiry include:

- A review the process by which schools are a) able to convert to academy status; and b) become Multi Academy Trusts, to ensure that appropriate checks are conducted on the group and key individuals and that there is an accurate assessment of the trust's capability and capacity

- A review of guidance on governor appointments to make clear the expectations of the role

- Consider preventing certain individuals from being involved in the management of schools

- Limit an individual to the appointment of governor status at a maximum of two schools at any one time

- Include details on school websites of their governing bodies, including the full name of the individuals, along with any committees they attend

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons