Essex County Council to set up its own academy chain for schools

PUBLISHED: 17:11 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:53 16 September 2017

Ray Gooding, Essex County Council cabinet member for education

Ray Gooding, Essex County Council cabinet member for education

Archant

Education chiefs at County Hall are pressing ahead with plans to set up their own academy trust for local authority-run schools.

Senior councillors will meet next week to decide whether to form its own trust.

Recommendations have been put forward for Essex County Council’s cabinet to support the creation of a ‘multi-academy trust’ (MAT), which any Essex school can join providing they meet the criteria.

If this goes through, it could also mean the council has the power to appoint a director of the trust.

The news comes after the Department of Education laid out hopes for all schools to become academies – independent schools which are directly funded by the government.

While it has stepped back from forcing all schools to convert, education secretary Justine Greening said last year it is important to build capacity and encourage them to become academies.

Ray Gooding, county councillor for education, said: “We have always welcomed the Department for Education’s academy programme and acknowledge academies can be a good option in improving standards. However, we have been clear we think schools should continue to be able to choose for themselves whether to go down the academy route.

Education chief’s concern at forcing schools to become academies

“As a council, we remain committed to ensuring all children in Essex receive the best possible education and believe it is vital schools still receive the challenge and support needed to continually improve.

“A local authority initiated MAT would provide a group of Essex schools with the opportunity to join together in a strong trust focused on achieving the best outcomes for pupils.

“Pending approval from cabinet, we hope an application can be made to the Regional Schools Commissioner in the near future.”

Currently, schools wanting to convert to academies can only do so with the intention of forming a MAT or by joining an existing one.

One for the entire county, however, would make the process easier as schools could join the pre-established MAT – with an Essex focus – instead of having to search for partners.

A report to the meeting notes: “The MAT we have in mind which would initially comprise of approximately five schools which are either good or outstanding and have a track record of effective partnership working with other schools.”

The meeting takes place on September 19.

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