This paper considers the background and reaction to, and the provisions of, the Education and Adoption Bill which proposes new powers in relation to converting school judged "inadequate" to academy status, the academy conversion process and intervention powers and the reaction to them, and the establishment of regional adoption agencies. Sections 5 to 7 were added to this paper on 14 September 2015, to cover the Bill's Second Reading and Commons Committee Stages. Sections 1 to 5 of the note remain as originally published on 17 June 2015, and have not been updated.
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For schools in England, the Bill’s provisions would:
- Require every school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted to be turned into a sponsored academy. The Government has estimated an extra 1,000 schools could be converted to sponsored academy status over the current Parliament.
- Give new powers to the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in schools considered to be underperforming, and constrain local authorities from doing so in some circumstances.
- Expand the legal definition of the ‘eligible for intervention’ category to include ‘coasting’ schools, and enable (but not require) the Secretary of State to turn such schools into sponsored academies or intervene in them in other ways.
- Allow the Secretary of State to issue directions, with time limits, to school governing bodies and local authorities, to speed up academy conversions.
- Place a new duty on schools and local authorites in specified cases to take all reasonable steps to progress the conversion
- Require schools and local authorities in specified cases to work with an identified sponsor toward the ‘making of academy arrangements’ with that sponsor.
- Remove the requirements for a general consultation to be held where a school ‘eligible for intervention’ is being converted to a sponsored academy.
In respect of adoption, the Bill would allow the Secretary of State to give directions requiring one or more English local authorities to make arrangements for any or all of their specified adoption functions to be carried out by one of the named local authorities or by a different adoption agency (either a different local authority or a voluntary adoption agency).
The provisions in the Bill build on and expand the joint arrangement legislation in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (which were added by the Children and Families Act 2014).
The Government has stated that the new powers “will require councils combine their adoption functions if they fail to join together services under their own steam within the next 2 years” – however, there is no reference to a waiting period in the Bill.