In September 2014, eight Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) were appointed as civil servants in the Department for Education (DfE) with responsibility for approving new academies and intervening to tackle underperformance in academies in their area. From July 2015, their role was expanded to additionally include responsibility for approving the conversion of underperforming maintained schools into academies and making the decision on sponsors.
A further expansion to the remit of RSCs resulted from the passing of the Education and Adoption Act 2016. The Act provided the Secretary of State with new intervention powers in both maintained schools and academies, and extended the types of schools that are eligible for intervention to include coasting schools. These additional intervention powers are exercised by RSCs on behalf of the Secretary of State.
RSCs’ responsibilities in addition to intervening in underperforming academies and maintained schools include:
- Assessing applications from maintained schools to convert to academy status.
- Encouraging organisations to become academy sponsors and taking decisions on the creation and growth of multi-academy trusts (MATs).
- Making recommendations to ministers on free school applications.
- Making decisions on applications to make significant changes to an existing academy.
RSCs take decisions on behalf of the Secretary of State and are supported in their work by a Headteacher Board comprising six to eight members, four of whom are elected current or former headteachers of academies in the region. The Secretary of State holds the commissioners to account for the performance of academies in their area and has the power to overturn their decisions. They are line managed by the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, and their performance is assessed against a set of key performance indicators spanning four areas of responsibility:
- Taking decisions on the creation of new academies.
- Ensuring there are enough high-quality sponsors to meet local need.
- Monitoring academy performance and tackling underperforming academies and free schools.
- Providing advice and making recommendations in relation to free schools, university technical colleges ad studio schools.
In addition to providing further information on the role of RSCs, this briefing outlines some of the issues that have been raised since their creation, including concerning the design of the RSC regions and the capacity of the RSCs to deal effectively with their increased role. The briefing also outlines the conclusions and recommendations of the Education Committee’s January 2016 report, The role of Regional Schools Commissioners, along with the Government response that was published in April 2016.