ASCL responds to Education Secretary’s speech on MATs and behaviour

28/04/2021
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s speech to the Confederation of School Trusts and his comments on the government’s vision for MAT growth and on behaviour and discipline.
 
Responding to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s speech to the Confederation of School Trusts and his comments on the government’s vision for MAT growth and on behaviour and discipline, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
 
“We support the aim of increasing and strengthening collaboration between schools but we are concerned that the government is obsessed with the narrow idea that this has to be done through MAT expansion.
 
“The reality is that the government’s policies have created the fragmented system which exists in England and we think that it would be more productive to look in a broader sense at how collaboration and partnership working can be strengthened across all types of schools.
 
“The try-before-you-buy proposal for schools to partner with a MAT on a trial basis before deciding whether or not to join is a good enough idea but this already happens informally and we are not sure that the government’s proposals really add up to very much at all.
 
“We note also a vague intention to bring schools with three consecutive Ofsted judgements of ‘requires improvement’ into MATs and we would caution the government about the unintended consequences of new forms of compulsion such as further stigmatising schools in this category.
 
“The Secretary of State is right about the importance of good behaviour and discipline in schools but his solutions of a behaviour survey and encouraging schools to ban mobile phones are thin gruel.
 
“The government would be better off reinstating the local support services for struggling families that were lost through its austerity cost-cutting programme and providing sufficient funding to schools for the pastoral support which is so important in preventing behaviour problems from escalating.
 
“Contrary to what the Secretary of State appears to think, schools are actually very good at managing and dealing with challenging behaviour, and they already have robust policies on mobile phones in place.
 
“Perhaps most dispiriting, as we emerge from a national crisis that has further widened the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, is that the Secretary of State for Education thinks that tinkering with structures, issuing surveys and fixating on mobile phones represents any part of the solution.”