Guidance on coasting schools

April 7th, 2016

In all of the excitement about the proposals in the White Paper for all schools to become academies, there has been little discussion about the Guidance for local authorities and RSCs on Schools causing concern – Intervening in failing, underperforming and coasting schools. Alongside this guidance, the Government has published its response to the consultation exercise, which includes a useful summary of the amendments that the Government made to the Bill during its Parliamentary passage. 

The guidance covers:

  1. Schools that have been judged inadequate by Ofsted – An academy order will be issued for all maintained schools that have been judged inadequate by Ofsted, requiring them to become sponsored academies. To minimise delays and ensure swift action, there is a new duty on governing bodies and local authorities to facilitate academy conversion. When an academy is judged inadequate by Ofsted, then the RSC is able to terminate the funding agreement with the existing academy trust, identify a new sponsor and move the academy to that new trust.
  2. Schools that are coasting – RSCs will be able to take formal action in any school which falls within the definition of coasting. They will first consider the school in the round before deciding what, if any action, is necessary. Where action is necessary and a coasting maintained school does not have a sufficient plan and the necessary capacity to bring about improvement, the RSC will use the powers of the Secretary of State to intervene. They will consider a range of interventions to ensure that the school receives the support and challenge it needs. This could include requiring the conversion of the school into an academy with the support of a sponsor. RSCs will also consider what action is necessary where an academy is coasting, and may issue a termination warning notice, which will require the academy trust to take specified action, and could ultimately allow a coasting academy to be moved to a new sponsor where necessary.
  3. Schools that have failed to comply with a warning notice – Local authorities and RSCs may give warning notices to maintained schools where they have concerns about unacceptable performance (including results below floor standards), a breakdown in leadership and governance, or the safety of pupils or staff may be being threatened. Where a maintained school does not comply with a warning notice it will become eligible for intervention. Arrangements for academies (that are not failing or coasting) are described in each academy’s funding agreement.

The definition of a coasting school is explained in the consultation response and will be included in regulations, which are expected to be introduced in the autumn. If a school satisfies the definition, the RSCs have discretion to decide on the specific course of action that will be taken . They may decide that a school:

  • has met the coasting definition but is in fact supporting pupils well, and therefore no action is required;
  • has a sufficient plan and sufficient capacity to improve, and therefore no action is required; or
  • will need additional support and challenge in order to improve. The RSC will decide whether it will be necessary to intervene to bring that about.

RSCs will consider the school in the round, seeking to take account of its context, wider achievements and overall provision to pupils, as well as the factors which may have led it to fall within the coasting definition. RSCs will consider both a) Performance data and other quantitative information, which might indicate the causes of the school’s current underperformance, and b) Other information about the school, its context, and its plans and capacity to improve, therefore what action would be necessary to bring about sufficient improvement. The guidance includes a list of indicative relevant factors.

In addition to the guidance about coasting schools, there is detail about the other new powers and duties introduced by the Education and Adoption Act 2016.

It is worth setting out in some detail the next steps that are set out in the consultation response:

  • The majority of the new and strengthened powers introduced by the Education and Adoption Act will be commenced to take effect from 18 April 2016, the beginning of the summer term. The powers in relation to coasting will be commenced later in the year. The guidance will take effect from 18 April 2016.
  • Implications for maintained schools – From 18 April,any maintained school that is judged inadequate by Ofsted will have an academy order made in respect of it, and be required to become a sponsored academy. Once such an academy order has been made, the duty to facilitate on the school’s governing body and on the local authority will also take effect. For any maintained school that had been judged inadequate before 18 April, that maintained school will also be required to become a sponsored academy. From 18 April, RSCs will be able to use the power of the Secretary of State to issue a performance standards and safety warning notice to a maintained school that is causing concern, in line with the Schools Causing Concern guidance. No maintained schools will be identified as coasting until the coasting levels have been set in the autumn and revised 2016 performance data is published in December 2016/January 2017. From that time, RSCs will be able to take formal action in a maintained school that meets the coasting definition.
  • Implications for academies (including free schools) – The provisions in the Education and Adoption Act regarding academies causing concern will also be commenced to take effect from 18 April 2016.  From 18 April, therefore, an RSC will be able to terminate the funding agreement of an academy that has been judged inadequate by Ofsted. When termination is appropriate, the RSC must first give the proprietor of the academy an opportunity to make representations. For any academy that had been judged inadequate before 18 April,  the same will apply – an RSC will be able to terminate the funding agreement, at the RSC’s discretion. When an academy’s funding agreement has been terminated, the RSC will usually identify a new sponsor to take on responsibility for the academy, and will enter into a new funding agreement in respect of that academy. The academy will remain open, and the RSC and the new sponsor will work to ensure minimal disruption to pupils’ education during the transition. No academies will be identified as coasting until the coasting levels have been set in the autumn and revised 2016 performance data is published in December 2016/January 2017. From that time, RSCs will be able to take formal action in an academy that meets the coasting definition.
  • Implications for special schools –  For maintained special schools, from 18 April any special school that is judged inadequate by Ofsted will have an academy order made in respect of it, and be required to become a sponsored academy. For any maintained special school that had been judged inadequate before 18 April, that special school will also be required to become a sponsored academy.  From 18 April, RSCs will be able to use the power of the Secretary of State to issue a warning notice to a maintained special school that is causing concern. For special academies, from 18 April an RSC will be able to terminate the funding agreement on an inadequate judgement by Ofsted. When termination is appropriate, the RSC must first give the proprietor of the special academy an opportunity to make representations. For any special academy judged inadequate by Ofsted before 18 April, the same will apply. The Government does not intend to apply a coasting definition to special schools at this stage – either to maintained special schools or special academies.
  • Implications for PRUs and alternative provision academies – The Government intends to lay regulations to ensure that the provisions in the Act will appy to PRUs, including those requiring an academy order to be made on an inadequate Ofsted judgement, to take effect in the summer term 2016. For alternative provision academies, from 18 April an RSC will be able to terminate the funding agreement on an inadequate judgement by Ofsted. When termination is appropriate, the RSC must first give the proprietor of the alternative provision academy an opportunity to make representations. For any alternative provision academy judged inadequate by Ofsted before 18 April, the same will apply. The Government does not intend to apply a coasting definition to alternative provision at this stage.

Rachel Kamm, 11KBW, @kamm11KBW 

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.