Published: 14:00, 13 February 2017
| Updated: 14:22, 13 February 2017
Kent County Council is weighing up plans to bring together some of its schools to create a multi-academy trust in what could be the first of its kind in the country.
Council leader Paul Carter said the authority was exploring the option but had not yet formalised any plan or identified potential schools.
The government’s academy programme has been centred on encouraging schools to become academies and in so doing detach themselves from council control.
KCC’s plan would represent a possible challenge to that principle but the authority believes that it could be supported.
Mr Carter said: “We have had meetings with Sir David Carter, the schools commissioner, about the opportunity to have local government-sponsored academy trusts.”
“What size and scale they would be has yet to be defined but if they [the government] is to set up a system that favours academies to the detriment of community schools, it seems a pretty sensible option against our track-record of school improvement, which is one of the best in the country.
"It means we should have the credentials to take a number of community schools under our wing and put them in a KCC-sponsored academy trust.
“We couldn’t compel any schools but if the model became attractive and if the government keep introducing things that advantage academies and disadvantage community schools - that has been the case - we have an opportunity to do things differently.
“Grants to support school improvement are diminishing to such an extent that primary schools feel that there is security in numbers by joining together. It has a logic to it.
“We are exploring the opportunity - it doesn’t mean we are going to do it. The government is struggling to find sponsors and free schools - this is something that could be to everyone’s advantage.”
Multi-academy trusts already exist in Kent and elsewhere but none is council-sponsored. They are groups of schools run by one trust.
Across Kent, there are now 209 academies against 372 maintained schools.
Although there is nothing explicit preventing councils from being academy sponsors, Department for Education guidance says that trust boards must not have more than 20% of their members who are local authority influenced.
Kent County Council was at the forefront of opposition to the government’s plan - which was ultimately abandoned - for all schools to become academies.