Last reviewed 21 September 2015

It’s the major piece of education legislation in this session of Parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent before the end of the calendar year. John Fowler explains clauses 1 to 12 of the Education and Adoption Bill 2015–16, which deal with schools causing concern.

Manifesto commitments

The Bill strengthens the Government’s intervention powers in maintained schools by fulfilling two manifesto commitments to:

  • require “coasting” schools to accept new leadership backed by expert sponsors or high-performing neighbouring schools — unless they can demonstrate they have a plan to improve rapidly

  • turn every failing school into an academy.

Eligibility for intervention

Clauses 1 to 3 make changes to the “ground rules” for intervening in maintained schools causing concern.

Clause 1 introduces a new category of school — a coasting school — which will be defined by regulations made by the Secretary of State. A coasting school will be defined using three-year pupil performance data and based on where the school is in relation to the relevant floor standard and the assessed level progress made by pupils.

The decision to declare that a school is coasting will be taken by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) on behalf of the Secretary of State. It is possible that an RSC might not declare a school to be coasting, although it meets the definition as set out in regulations, due to other mitigating circumstances.

Clause 2 rewrites the law on giving performance standards and safety warning notices, commonly known as “warning notices” found in s.60 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. The Secretary of State will be able to issue a warning notice, although in practice this will be done by the RSC on her behalf. The fixed-length compliance period of 15 working days, within which a maintained school’s governing body has to take the actions specified in the warning notice, is abolished.

In future, the compliance period will be in the warning notice. The appeal to Ofsted is abolished, and there will be no appeal other than through judicial review of the lengthy parliamentary Ombudsman process. Clause 3 abolishes the fixed-length compliance period for the rarely used teachers’ pay and conditions warning notice under s.60A of the 2006 Act.

Intervention powers

Clauses 4 to 6 make changes to the powers of the Secretary of State and local authority (LA) to intervene in a school once it becomes eligible.

Clause 4 gives a new power to the Secretary of State, to be exercised by the RSC, to require a maintained school to enter into “arrangements” with another school to bring in leadership support, or a school support and improvement organisation.

Clause 5 allows the Secretary of State to direct an LA as to who the members of an LA-appointed Interim Executive Board (IEB) should be, and make other arrangements for the running of the IEB.

Clause 6 deals with the interaction between the intervention powers of the LA and the Secretary of State. The requirement is placed on both the Secretary of State and LA to inform each other about their actions and also to restrict the LA’s intervention powers once the Secretary of State has decided to act. The Secretary of State can also take over responsibility for an LA-appointed IEB.

Conversion into academies

Clauses 7 to 12 give additional duties and powers to the Secretary of State to assist with the conversion of a maintained school that is eligible for intervention into an academy.

Clause 7 places a duty on the Secretary of State to issue an academy order (which is an order that commences the conversion process) for any maintained school found by Ofsted to be inadequate.

Clause 8 relieves the duty of consultation prior to conversion for any school which is eligible for intervention because it is coasting or has not complied with a warning notice, or an academy order has been made because Ofsted has found the school to be inadequate. However, in the case of a maintained school with a foundation, which will be mainly church schools, there will be consultation with the foundation about the academy sponsor under clause 9.

Clause 10 places a duty on the LA and existing school governing body to facilitate the conversion where the school is eligible for intervention or has been found by Ofsted to be inadequate.

In addition, the Secretary of State gains the power of direction under clause 11, which will require the LA and governing body to take specified steps within time limits should the duty in clause 10 be insufficient.

Finally, the Secretary of State gets a specific power to revoke an academy order for a school eligible for intervention or because it has an inadequate Ofsted judgment. This can be used where, for example, it is decided that the school should close rather than be converted into an academy.