Council 'open-minded' about setting up multi-academy trusts of schools

Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils are to reduce their space in Ipswich's Endeavour House as more staf

Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House HQ - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Suffolk County Council says it is keeping an open mind on Government plans to allow local authorities to set up multi-academy trusts of schools.

The Government’s White Paper published at the end of March proposed to have all schools becoming academies by 2030, which included allowing local education authorities to set up their own multi-academy trusts (MATs).

The Government said local authorities would also “gain the legal power to request their non-academy schools join a trust, where that is the right approach for local schools”.

Suffolk County Council has said it is keeping an open mind and awaiting to see the details of how a local authority MAT could operate.

A spokesperson said: “A White Paper is a policy statement setting out a commitment to legislate. To come to an informed view about an LA MAT we will need to see the detail in the pending legislation.

“It’s also important to note that the policy commitment on this from the Government is for LAs to establish MATs, not actually run them.

“Like all MATs they will be autonomous with as yet unknown LA involvement on the trust board.”

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Academies were first formed in 2000 as a means of allowing struggling schools to make improvements.

Since then many schools have already converted to academies or belong to multi-academy trusts, but Suffolk County Council data indicates that just over 100 schools in the county are still local authority maintained.
Of those, just four are secondary schools with the vast majority primary schools.

Priority investment

As part of the White Paper announcement, Ipswich was confirmed as one of the first 24 of its 55 priority investment areas to address local needs.

It means the town will be able to access a share of the £40million pot established for those areas over three years.

Among measures it could fund are schemes to reduce absences, new specialist sixth form free schools or teacher retention programmes.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said it was “good that Ipswich will be seeing tangible benefit from this,” adding that “it does feel like we are getting somewhere when it comes to getting fairer funding for Ipswich schools”.