From modest beginnings in 1988, the academies programme has come a long way.
In 2010 there were 203 open academies. But following the 2010 Education Act, the last four years have seen an acceleration of this process. Now the majority of secondary schools are academies and there are almost 2,000 primary academy schools.
The new Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) are at the forefront of these reforms, helping ensure coherence and quality of provision through local engagement and national accountability.
So my post will involve taking operational decisions on behalf of the Secretary of State about academies, free schools and sponsors in our region. This represents an important shifting of operational decision-making from Whitehall or town halls towards real local ownership.
Put simply, my role is to take action swiftly where an academy is faltering, and to approve the creation of new academies across the North, helping excellent head teachers improve their schools so that thousands of pupils benefit.
As Regional Schools Commissioner for the North of England I will be advised, and challenged, by a democratically elected board of academy head teachers, all experienced leaders with knowledge of the North. These Head Teacher Boards will become a cornerstone of our school system, helping exploit the freedoms and flexibilities academy status offers, ensuring policy is grounded in local knowledge and expertise and a self-regulating system which ensures that all children get the best chance.
I’ve worked in education for some 35 years, and throughout my experiences whether it be as an Executive Headteacher, National Leader of Education, Additional Inspector or as a lead in a Teaching School my central passion remains: children have one chance of a good education.
I’ve always been a team player, and am proud to work alongside colleagues in the north of England. Whatever their background, second best is never good enough: and it’s my role as commissioner to ensure, working together, that we offer the best we can for all the children in our region – and do not simply build capacity but share it by engagement and example.
Parents and children want good schools with good teaching. I see it as a moral obligation to make this happen - without constraints of geography or ideology - using our most effective schools and heads to support improvement across the system.
And doing so as robustly as may be necessary on occasion.
This will include monitoring performance and intervening to secure improvement in underperforming academies, including directing them to commission school improvement services and using formal interventions in the most severe cases; taking decisions on the creation of new academies in my area by approving applications from maintained schools wishing to convert to academy status.
I shall be supporting academies in your area and I will be able to represent local concerns at a national level.
If you have any questions about academies in the North - whether as parent, governor, colleague or potential sponsor, please feel free to make contact via DfE’s Mowden Hall Office in Darlington where I shall be based from September - and from where I look forward to being with you in the next stage of this journey of transformation.