Headteachers in a number of schools in Swindon have expressed grave concern at the borough council’s apparent plans to encourage them all to join multi-academy trusts.

And their union held an emergency meeting and wrote at the last minute to the council asking it to reconsider.

The agenda for the authority’s Conservative cabinet meeting tonight included a report suggesting the council look to support the Department for Education’s expressed policy that all schools be in a “family of schools”.

The report to members says it should: “Consider the implications of all maintained schools becoming an academy within a multi-academy trust and all standalone academies to join a MAT and authorise the corporate director of children’s services to support the secretary of state for education policy decision for all schools to be part of a family of schools.”

After a meeting on Tuesday evening with memberts in Swindon, the National Association of Head Teachers asked the report was withdrawn to allow for further consultation.

It said: “We are concerned the ‘purpose and reasons’ section of this report appears to have been determined without any consultation with school leaders and their governing boards.

“No consideration appears to have been made to determine the success criteria for this policy recommendation, nor any assessment of its impact upon pupils and communities. Critically, the paper is silent on how the ‘direction of travel’ will deliver effective and meaningful collaboration under the proposed arrangements.”

The letter said the government policy had softened on its push to turn schools into academies, adding: “Secretary of State Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that he would not set any 'arbitrary' deadline or timeline for structural change to the school system and that he would be led by the evidence on the direction of education policy.

“We have, this evening, met with school leaders and chairs of governors from across Swindon schools. They have also expressed grave concerns regarding the lack of any meaningful consultation with key stakeholders over this proposal.”

The letter concludes: “Now is not the time for Swindon Borough Council to begin obsessing about different types of structures while schools are still coping with the impact of the ongoing pandemic and its impact on pupils. We would strongly suggest that this paper be withdrawn and that an urgent meeting is arranged in order to discuss our concerns in further detail.”

Council leader David Renard said: “The paper going before cabinet this evening has caused a lot of concern among the teaching unions because there is an assumption the council is forcing schools down the MAT path. 

"This could not be further from the truth.

“We know the direction of travel the government wants to take, but rather than sit back and wait for school leaders to gradually align themselves to a particular MAT in isolation, we want to take a strategic approach and work with all maintained schools and SATs to look at all the options that are available.

“We want this to be a partnership approach where no school feels left out and there will be plenty of time to run through any questions or feedback from school leaders.

“In fact, we are already looking to facilitate meetings with all the MATs and individual schools in Swindon to look at how we take this forward. Otherwise we could find ourselves in a situation where some schools have joined MATs and we are left with a relatively small number who are left out in the cold, which will not only severely impact on their finances, but also those of the council.”

Campaign group Fair Funding For All Schools Swindon had organised a protest against the government policy and the council’s plan before the meeting at Euclid Street, while union GMB had said with would oppose any job cuts if the plan meant the council lost funding if the 25 primary schools it maintains became academies.