Agenda item

Regional Schools Commissioner Presentation

The Panel will receive a presentation regarding this item.


Giles de Rivaz, Head of Somerset Sub-Region & Tish Bourke, BANES Project Lead, Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) addressed the Panel, a summary of the presentation is set out below.


Giles de Rivazthanked the Panel for the opportunity to share their work with them and said that the RSC and the Local Authority were key partners in supporting the pupils within B&NES.




  • The role of the RSC is to provide oversight and scrutiny of academy trusts with the ESFA (Education & Skills Funding Agency)
  • RSC makes decisions through powers delegated by SoS (Secretary of State)
  • RSCs are accountable to SoS and to the NSC (National Schools Commissioner), Dominic Herrington




  • RSC holds trusts to account through intervention powers in eligible schools & trust reviews, Advisory Board conditions
  • RSC role & powers around the education landscape with advice from Advisory Board e.g

-  deciding on applications for schools to convert

-  approving new sponsors & creation of multi-academy trusts

-  oversee school place sufficiency and advise on new free schools

-  decisions on changes to academies and free schools


Giles de Rivaz informed the Panel that the Advisory Board was a forum to enable decision making, but that the members of the Board were not decision makers, that role remains with the RSC.


Tish Bourke explained how the RSC holds Trusts to account.


Accountability through intervention


·  RSC powers of intervention restricted to schools deemed eligible - Ofsted Inadequate grade


-  Maintained school: RSC has a duty to make an academy order

-  Academy:  RSC is able to take action to transfer the academy to a new trust




  • In academies, where failure occurs RSCs and ESFA may issue formal intervention notices:

-  termination warning notices (RSCs)

-  financial notices to improve (ESFA)


  • In response, the academy trust may be required to submit:

-  trust school improvement plan,

-  financial recovery plan agreed between the trust and ESFA


  • Depending on response RSC may decide to transfer academy to a new trust.


Trust reviews:


  • Opportunity to support improvement


Advisory Board conditions:


  • At time of RSC decision-making (e.g trust growth) RSC may set conditions in line with Trust Academies Handbook, e.g.

-  Governance

-  Trustees recruitment

-  Leadership support

-  Information-sharing


Improving the system & preventing failure


  Build school improvement capacity

  Encouraging and supporting system led trust and school improvement

  Strengthen governance oversight at leadership and board level

  Signpost to core DfE policy and support e.g. NTP (National Tutoring Programme)


Councillor Rob Appleyard asked how it can be ensured that in terms of budgets and a CEO salary there is still value for money and that enough funds are accessible for the classroom.


Giles de Rivaz replied that all Trusts publish an annual report and that within that there are value for money statements. He added that the reports are robustly audited by the ESFA.


Councillor Andy Wait asked what happens if a Trust is unable to meet its financial objectives – is the academy returned to the Local Authority.


Giles de Rivaz replied no, a mechanism does not exist for that to happen. He added that the ESFA would seek to avoid reaching that position and that if a deficit occurs financial recovery packages are available.


Councillor Liz Hardman asked how the membership of the Advisory Board is comprised.


Giles de Rivaz replied that it is split between Elected Board Members, Academy Heads and co-opted members.


Councillor Hardman asked if there was a limit on the number of academies to have within a MAT.


Tish Bourke replied that there was no limit. She added that they want to see MATs working together to enable a network of leaders within the Trust, enhance school improvement and cost save where possible.


Councillor Paul May commented that pupil / school outcomes were important to him and asked what assurances can be given that any elements of concern can be picked up outside of the review process.


Tish Bourke replied that formal intervention is only allowed following an Ofsted Inadequate grade but assured the Panel that work was always ongoing outside of the reviews through the Sponsor Leads within the RSC.


Councillor Ruth Malloy asked how councillors could find out more information about their local schools.


Tish Bourke replied that data is published on the DfE website.


Councillor Rob Appleyard asked if there were enough control measures were in place within the process.


The Director of Education & Safeguarding replied that they were looking at how the arrangement between the DfE, RSC and LA can be formalised.


Gill Stobart asked what can be done to support a school that is not within a MAT that may have funding issues.


Giles de Rivazreplied that becoming a member of a MAT could alleviate that and said that due diligence would be carried out. He added that conversion funding was also available and that there is a Trust Capacity Fund to support vulnerable schools.


Kevin Burnett asked what the RSC does within B&NES in terms of education support.


Giles de Rivaz replied that their first relationship is with the Trust Board / CEO and that they have the ability to challenge them robustly. He added that when required they can draw on sector representatives and commission a deep dive to aid in their decision making.


Kevin Burnett commented that he felt that the process was reactive rather than proactive.


Giles de Rivaz replied that he did not agree with that view as the role that Tish has enables ongoing development and support to both pupils and staff.


Tish Bourke added that good governance is carried out through triangulation of school improvement data and that they do hold MAT leaders to account.


 Kevin Burnett asked how duplication of work between MATs is assessed.


Tish Bourke replied that it is for Trusts themselves to assess whether any duplication occurs. She added that it was recognised that in some cases MATs do share services and there was an understanding that Trusts do have different approaches / ethos.


Councillor Paul May asked how councillors would know how well a Trust is working.


The Director of Education & Safeguarding replied that they could look into a way of updating the Panel in terms of Trust performance. He assured the Panel that he is in regular contact with the RSC and that children were currently receiving good outcomes.


The Chairman thanked Giles de Rivaz and Tish Bourke for attending the meeting on behalf of the Panel.

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