Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to the government press release on the next steps towards all schools being in, or in the process of joining, multi-academy trusts by 2030.
“While this plan sets out a number of technical steps to encourage full academisation and every school in a multi-academy trust, it does not address two crucial questions.
“The first of these is the lack of a compelling argument that this is the right direction of travel. There is a need to tidy up a messy and fragmented system – which is of the government’s own making – and we do agree with the benefits of families of schools working together. However, while many multi-academy trusts do excellent work, this is not the only model of collaboration that is available. Successful stand-alone trusts and local authority schools may well wonder why such a significant structural change is needed.
“The second unanswered question is what happens if schools do not play ball and go along with the government’s wishes. Will stronger forms of leverage and compulsion be introduced at a later date? The Department for Education’s lack of clarity on this point is not helpful and leaves a grey area of whether this plan is an ambition on its part that it hopes to achieve by encouragement, or a more ominous fait accompli. It really should be setting out its intentions so that the discussion can take place in an environment of full disclosure.”