What Is A Trust School?
- A Trust school is a Voluntary-Aided or Foundation school with a charitable foundation. As the foundation is set up as a charity, members of the foundation are Trustees. Under the proposed legislation, the charitable foundation can nominate a minority or a majority of governors for the school’s governing body. The charitable foundation is made up of external sponsors. The Government is currently trying to persuade schools to convert from Community to Trust status, as part of its plan to increase “choice” by creating a market in secondary education, where so-called “independent” state schools compete with each other for pupils This is the first such proposal in Bradford. There are not yet many elsewhere.
The Political Context
- A key cause of concern for the NUT is the potential involvement of private sector companies as sponsors of Trust schools. Through their Trustee status, they could gain control of school land and premises; be able to shape the curriculum; and dominate governance of schools.
- The NUT believes that the Government’s promotion of Trust school status will lead to the establishment of a framework which will facilitate the ability of a future government to dismantle comprehensive education, because schools will no longer be regulated or supported or owned by LEAs on behalf of the local community.
The Effect On You As An Employee
- If schools acquire Trusts and transfer from Community to Foundation status, this will mean that their governing bodies, not the Local Authority, will become your employer.
- Currently many aspects of your conditions of employment are negotiated locally between teacher unions and the local authority as your current employer. These include sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, other leave of absence entitlements, and many other things. Though there is some protection of your existing rights if you transfer to a new employer (TUPE), they become the body responsible for any subsequent changes to your conditions.
- It is much harder for unions to represent you if your school is an individual employer. It is also harder for the school as a small employer to guarantee you certain protections that the LEA can, such as alternative employment if your current job is no longer needed. Some of the biggest problems we have as a Union in sorting out problems to do with teacher illness, teachers’ pensions, and other everyday problems that teachers encounter, are in Foundation schools that have made their own arrangements outside of the LEA for the services that the Council provides to Community Schools.
- The acquisition of Trust school status will not, in itself, enable school governing bodies to change teachers’ pay scales or those aspects of conditions determined nationally, such as the hours and days of work. The Government, however, is encouraging Trust governing bodies to apply to use powers to innovate under the 2002 Education Act. The use of powers to innovate can apply to existing pay and conditions arrangements.
- Under the Government’s plans, Trust schools may appoint the majority of their governors, including parent governors. There will be no guarantee that local parents will be properly and democratically represented.
- There is no evidence that self-governing independent Trust schools will improve teaching and learning in schools. The creation of such self-governing schools will be likely to create new burdens for head teachers. Loss of local authority support for schools and increased administrative responsibilities will divert the attention of school leaderships away from schools’ core teaching and learning role.
- The NUT believes that an expansion of the number of schools becoming their own admissions authorities will exacerbate the acute difficulties parents in some areas experience in finding suitable school places for their children. Increasing the number of admission authorities will further complicate the admissions process and make it difficult for parents to navigate the system.
The Process Of Becoming A Trust School
- Under legislation, charitable foundations or ‘Trusts’ can be formed by one organisation or a group of organisations and can work with one school or with a number of schools locally or nationally. Foundations can act as promoters in order to enter any competitions for new schools, either on their own account or in collaboration with local parents.
- No school is required to become a Trust school and establish a foundation. The decision to acquire Trust status is solely that of school governing bodies. Governing bodies are required to consult on their proposals with parents and other local stakeholders, such as staff and their representatives, any local authority and other schools in the area which are likely to be affected by the proposals, as well as partnerships such as the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships.
- Schools are required to publish formal proposals to become a Trust school. It is during this process that schools and their representatives can express their views. The governing body will need to compile information about the proposed changes.
- The publication of formal proposals is a legal requirement. A notice must be published in at least one local community newspaper and must also be posted at the main entrance to the school and at another conspicuous place in the area, such as a post office or community centre. Copies of the notice must be sent to the local authority and the DfES. During this process, schools and their communities should make their views known and sufficient information be provided so that people can form a considered view. The local authority must be consulted on the partner organisations proposed by the governing body for the charitable foundation (Trust) and on whether the governing body proposes to transfer school land to the Trust.
- Governing bodies’ consultations should be made accessible to hard-to-reach parents such as those who speak English as an additional language.
- Consultation with the local community must have been carried out. The governing body has to have regard to any responses to the consultation. Objections to the proposals can be lodged with the Schools’ Adjudication by a parent or parents; a governor or governors; or by the local authority. The local authority can refer proposals if it believes the governing body has not had sufficient regard to the views expressed in consultation.
- If a majority of parents have concerns about acquiring Trust school status, the governing body is expected to review its plan and consult again. Where the governing body ignores the concerns of parents, parents can appeal to the Schools’ Adjudicator.
- The actions and consultative steps to be followed by the governing body if they are seeking Trust status are summarised below.
- The governing body agrees, in principle, the Trust proposals before approaching other partners.
- When the governing body has finalised its proposals, it agrees its consultation arrangements.
- The governing body publishes statutory proposals and invites representations and views on the proposals.
- A minimum of six weeks (not including school holidays) is allowed for representations. This is a DfES recommendation.
- A charitable Trust is set up by the governing body.
If a school becomes a Trust school, the existing governing body would be disbanded. The Trust, as a charitable foundation, would be able to appoint the majority of the governors for the new governing body.