Ask Birmingham City Council to require fair MAT consultations
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Keep maintained schools under local authority oversight
We call on Birmingham City Council to do everything in its power to prevent governing bodies of its maintained faith and non faith schools choosing or being forced to form academies or MATs without meaningful consultation* with stakeholders (parents/carers, staff, community members) and a significant mandate from them.
Some schools in Birmingham and elsewhere have converted to academies or MATs with only minimal consultation, leading to the removal of local democratic accountability for community assets. The diverse and significant risks opened up by the academy model are well documented.
Actions we ask Birmingham City Council to consider undertaking as a matter of urgency include (but are not limited to):
- Introduce measures that legally and/or morally compel governing bodies of schools planning to academise to hold meaningful consultation* with stakeholders, in line with National Governance Association guidelines, and ensure council oversight and approval of any such consultation process and materials
- Prevent access to Birmingham City Council legal advice and expertise in support of the conversion process, until such time that the transfer of assets and staff contracts would be required were a conversion to be approved by stakeholders following meaningful consultation* and a significant mandate to proceed
- Pass a motion opposing academisation (as done by Newham Council)
Too many schools have been lost to local accountability and oversight, and there have been too many examples of practices that are not in the best interest of students and local communities.
*APPENDIX 1: The characteristics of meaningful consultation process
Legal guidelines on consultations in the public sector state that:
1. Consultations should be undertaken when proposals for the subject of the consultation are at a formative stage. This means that, contrary to Department For Education guidelines, consultation must take place before an application for an academy order has been made.
2. Consultations should provide enough information to those consulted to enable them to comment intelligently on the proposals. See Appendix 2 for more details.
3. Consultations should allow enough time for those consulted to enable them to properly consider the proposals. The consultation must not feel rushed for stakeholders and should allow time for all options to be fully explored. We would anticipate a formal consultation period to be in excess of 6 weeks and that school holidays should not be included in this time.
4. Consultation responses should be specifically considered by the decision maker when deciding whether or not to implement the proposal. The responses will need to be considered at a governing body meeting. The fact that the consultation responses were considered should be properly minuted.
APPENDIX 2: The characteristics of meaningful consultation document
A comprehensive, open and balanced consultation document should be provided in full on Day 1 of consultation. Details of this should be sent to parents and staff in hard copy and by email, and available in full on each school's website. Details should be provided in relation to how stakeholders can provide comments and representations, and the deadlines for submissions. Other than setting out the school's predisposition or preference (if relevant), and opinion on advantages and disadvantages (which should be clearly expressed as opinion), the consultation document should clearly set out factually accurate and neutrally expressed information about what conversion means.
NGA guidelines on consultation state that, in order for the consultation to be meaningful, full information on the implications would need to be provided. Information should include:
● Details of the proposed academy arrangements;
● Details of the proposed governance arrangements including details of the directors of the company which will enter into the academy arrangements and details of the composition of the governing body;
● Any proposed changes in the arrangements for the curriculum, for special educational needs, for pupil discipline, exclusion and for complaints, and confirmation that there will be no change in the admissions arrangements;
● Details of the additional money which would be available to the school (either as capital or revenue funding) if it became an academy;
● Details of any additional obligations which fall on the school if it became an academy; and
● Details of the support proposed to be given to other schools and any other possible effect on other schools.
No later than two weeks after distribution of the consultation document, one or more public meetings should be held jointly for stakeholders of all of the schools, at which representatives both for and against the proposals are invited to speak. A ballot of stakeholders should also be held.
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