The move towards more freedom and autonomy for schools in England has created greater diversity in the school system. However, it has not achieved a generalised or sustained level of innovation, or spread best practice. This has left many schools trailing behind the best and many children unable to reach their full potential.
School groups offer a solution to this problem. In particular, they offer a more coherent governance system that addresses the key issues currently damaging the system: unclear governance; inexpert governance; a lack of capabilities and professional development; and a lack of economies of scale and clear operating models. A school system in which more schools belong to large groups, with strong corporate centres, will provide better education for many more pupils. They create the right structures to harness the best, and drive high performance across the system. However, this system will not develop on its own. Currently, only half of academies are part of a group, and the majority of these are in a group of ten schools or fewer. Our view is that the following actions should be taken to encourage schools to join groups:
- The government should expect most schools to join groups.
- The government should strengthen the ability of school groups to develop strategic corporate centres. It should expect school groups to invest between 8 and 10 per cent of the group’s revenue in their corporate centre.
- Individual schools that are part of high performing school groups should be exempt from Ofsted inspection. The school group should be inspected instead.
- The government should devolve school capital budgets to competent school groups