Given that my study of free school applications has stalled while I await the DfE’s legal battle to stop me getting the information I need, I decided to look for an alternative approach. Having stumbled upon the Targeted Basic Need Programme, where funds are given to local authorities for new academies, I began considering how providers were being chosen for these schools. As with my Free School studies, I decided to ask for public documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Partly I did so because I’m now horribly familiar with the process, but mostly because I don’t like the ethics of gaining documents via nepotism or as part of a ‘strings attached’ deal.
Among one of the bundles of information I received in a recent FOI-ing bout, I noticed an email from the DfE’s ‘Academies Presumption Team’. It was sent to a council considering Wey Education Schools Trust as the potential sponsor of a new school. It read:
This struck me as odd. “(T)hey have been advised that they should concentrate on encouraging high performing converters to join the Trust before we will consider them for London projects”.
But…why? Why is an academy trust being asked to encourage high performing local authority schools to convert into it? As far as I can see, The Wey Education Trust website doesn’t name any school that it runs. There appear to be no results. So why is the Academies Presumption Team asking Wey to encourage schools to convert into their management?
It’s one thing for academisation to remove a failing school from a local authority and place it in to the hands of a better provider. But this email suggests Trusts have pointedly been told they must go and ‘encourage’ (effectively: poach) high-performing schools from local authorities who presumably have thus far been doing a pretty good job. And if the Trust doesn’t follow suit, then they will be unable to begin new ventures.
This seems extraordinary. What benefit can there be to this?
As always, I hope that I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. So if someone has an alternative explanation, I’ll be all ears.