Concern at unfilled posts in schools shake-up

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THE CHAIRMAN of the Education Select Committee has said it is concerning that the Government has not yet been able to appoint new regional schools commissioners for two areas covering large parts of Yorkshire.

The Department for Education has announced that six appointments have been made to these powerful new roles who will each earn up to £140,000-a year.

The commissioners are being created to provide local decision making over academies and free schools amid concerns that Ministers were attempting to monitor more than 4,000 autonomous schools from a desk in Whitehall.

Under the new structure the country has been split into eight new regions. However, the DfE has so far only filled six of the posts it has created – with both of the vacancies affecting Yorkshire.

Under the new system Yorkshire has been split into three regions: Lancashire and West Yorkshire; The North; and the East Midlands and Humber.

The DfE has yet to appoint anyone to the roles in the North – which groups North Yorkshire with the North East and Cumbria and to the East Midlands and Humber – ‘a region’ which goes as far south as Leicestershire and Rutland but also covers all of South Yorkshire, Hull, York, the East Riding and Lincolnshire.

Graham Stuart, the Education Select Committee chairman and Beverley and Holderness MP, has questioned why an announcements on regional school commissioners appointments did not include two of the regions covering Yorkshire.

The DfE told The Yorkshire Post that it would be appointing commissioners for its North and East Midlands and Humber regions “shortly.” At an Education Select Committee hearing a few days ago, just before six of the eight commissioners were announced, it was suggested the DfE had struggled to recruit people to these roles.

Giving evidence, John Clarke, director of children’s services at Hampshire County Council, said: “Frankly I think a lot of people think the role is ill thought through, not worked out yet and might be temporary”.

Mr Stuart told The Yorkshire Post that it was more of a concern that two of these posts remain unfilled “with each passing month” but that the DfE might be taking time to ensure it got the right people in place. He also said that many outstanding head teachers might not see themselves as system-wide leaders.

Commissioners will be responsible for taking decisions on the opening of new academies on behalf of Education Secretary Michael Gove. They will also monitor academies in their area and be expected to take action to tackle underperformance.

Paul Smith, an executive head teacher of an outstanding primary school near Wigan, has been appointed as commissioner for Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

He said: “I am very excited to take up this key role as regional schools commissioner for Lancashire and West Yorkshire. I am well aware of the diversity and challenge that exists within the region and I am determined to begin the process of transforming under-performing schools.”

Regional school commissioners will also work with the national school commissioner, Frank Green, who has welcomed the six appointments so far.

He said: “As the number of academies continues to grow rapidly, the need to build a regional support framework for them is an essential part of the development of our school system so that more decisions are taken at a local level.”

Mr Smith, who will start later this year, will be advised by a board of around six head teachers of outstanding academies or experienced educational leaders, the majority of whom, the DfE say will be “elected to the position by their peers”.

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