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a tale of two regulators

4 October 2016

At a recent roundtable hosted by Browne Jacobson, attended by key education sector stakeholders, there was a real feeling that the regulatory system schools face “is not joined up at the moment”. With over 6,000 academies, many of them within multi-academy trusts (MATs), it is imperative that there is joined up regulation of the effectiveness of the MATs – both educationally and organisationally.

MATs have to contend with amongst others the oversight of Ofsted, Regional School Commissioners (RSCs) and the Education Funding Agency (EFA). Ofsted is a non-ministerial department that reports directly to Parliament. It inspects schools against a common inspection framework which is currently based on the inspection of a school and not MATs. RSCs act on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education (SoS) and through the National Schools Commissioner are accountable to the SoS. RSCs do not intervene directly in MATs but do decide whether intervention is necessary based on Ofsted’s inspection results and accountability measures for school performance (which is more flexible and open to change and influence by Government). The EFA is an executive agency of the Department of Education responsible for managing school funding.

With the growth in MATs it is critical for the effectiveness of the schools system that they are effectively regulated to ensure they (a) are effectively governed and managed, (b) provide value for money for the public purse and (c) deliver good or better educational outcomes. There are strong arguments in favour of bringing all three of these under the remit of a single independent regulator for MATs. In order to ensure public and professional confidence in the system any single regulator would need to be independent and held properly to account for its judgements. At the roundtable there were many that were in favour of that single regulator to be an expanded and developed Ofsted. In the meantime, MATs need to make sure they understand the increasingly complex interplay between Ofsted, RSCs and the EFA.

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