Union concerned over ‘lack of transparency’ in powers of regional school commissioners

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A TEACHERS union has called for more clarity about the role and decision making of regional schools commissioners (RSCs).

RSCs were introduced in September last year, with eight appointed across England to oversee the growing numbers of academies and free schools.

This system controversially splits Yorkshire into three separate regions with West Yorkshire being grouped with Lancashire, North Yorkshire placed in the same area as the North East and Cumbria. South and East Yorkshire are both placed in a region with the East Midlands.

The new Education and Adoption Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will gives RSCs powers to parachute top headteachers into failing council maintained schools and quickly turn them into academies.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee is holding an inquiry into their role, with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) saying it has “serious concerns” about the fact they are not democratically accountable.

Giving evidence to the committee yesterday, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said it was “not helpful” that the frameworks under which decisions are made by RSCs are not published. He said this “contributes to the confusion about their role and powers and is not in the interests of a transparent system”.

“These are vitally important decisions which will affect the lives of teachers, parents and children, and it is critical that the Department for Education sets
out a clear and coherent framework of how they will be made,” he added.

“The system for oversight and scrutiny must be transparent and fair.”

But he said he believes RSCs do have an important role to play in improving schools.

“There are serious problems which are holding back further improvement,” he said.

“The teacher recruitment situation means schools are struggling to find key staff in many subjects, including maths, English and science. We also need to develop a deep understanding of the issues affecting areas where there are endemic problems and work out detailed plans to help and support them.” A Department for Education spokesman said: “Regional Schools Commissioners provide crucial local support to help those schools that are under-performing and encourage our best leaders to support schools through sponsored academy arrangements.

“RSCs are civil servants and their decisions are held to account by the Secretary of State, who they act on behalf of, and by their headteacher boards.”