The Government has created a new category of schools called Trust Schools. Teachers should be very concerned about this development. The reasons why we should not trust Trust Schools are set out below.
What is a Trust School?
It 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 who 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.
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.
The Effect on You as an Employee
If schools acquire Trusts 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. These 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 that 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.