Since our last update on the definition of coasting schools, the Education and Adoption Bill has progressed through the committee and report stages in the House of Lords.
On 16 December 2015, a detailed line by line examination of the Bill took place and amendments were discussed by the Lords. The main changes in the Bill are:
- The Secretary of State will be required to make regulations to define what a coasting school means, rather than the Secretary of State just having the power to do so.
- Schools will be notified by the Secretary of State when it is coasting as per the definition that will be set out in the regulations.
- The Secretary of State will be allowed, through the regulations, to exclude certain types of schools from the definition of coasting. It is intended that maintained nurseries will be excluded and the Secretary of State is consulting on other types of schools.
- Proposed academy providers will be under a duty to communicate their plans to improve a maintained school that is ‘causing concern’ before it converts to academy status. Schools that are categorised as ‘causing concern’ are those judged as inadequate by Ofsted, those that are coasting, or those that have failed to improve following the issuing of a warning notice.
- Provisions will be introduced to confirm how academies that are ‘causing concern’ will be dealt with. The Secretary of State will have powers to issue warning notices and terminate funding agreements if the academy does not improve following the warning notice being issued.
The House of Lords also stated: “we will continue to consider whether it is appropriate to amend primary legislation [to include more detail on the coasting criteria] following the conclusion of the consultation“. The consultation on the definition of coasting schools concluded on 18 December 2015 and we await the Government’s response.
The amendments relating to formal consultation requirements with parents, teachers and governors prior to a school converting to an academy were rejected by the Lords. It will be a duty to communicate rather than a duty to consult.
A third reading by the Lords is scheduled for 4th February 2016 and this will be a final opportunity for any amendments.