About us

The National Schools Commissioner and regional schools commissioners work with schools to ensure they are supported to improve and to address underperformance.

Regional schools commissioners (RSCs) act on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education and are accountable to the National Schools Commissioner.

Each RSC is supported by an advisory board. Advisory boards are made up of experienced academy headteachers and other sector leaders who advise and challenge RSCs on the decisions they make.

RSCs work with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to provide oversight and scrutiny of academy trusts’ performance, in line with the established framework for academy trusts.

RSCs also work closely with a number of partners.

RSCs’ main responsibilities include:

  • intervening in academies that Ofsted has judged inadequate
  • intervening in academies where governance is inadequate
  • deciding on applications from local-authority-maintained schools to convert to academy status
  • intervening in maintained schools judged to be inadequate by Ofsted by providing them with support from a strong sponsor
  • encouraging and deciding on applications from sponsors to operate in a region
  • taking action to improve poorly performing sponsors
  • advising on proposals for new free schools
  • advising on whether to cancel, defer or enter into funding agreements with free school projects
  • deciding on applications to make significant changes to academies and free schools
  • taking decisions on the creation and growth of multi-academy trusts
  • offering support to maintained schools and academies judged to require improvement by Ofsted
  • deciding on the transfer of an academy from one trust to another

Read more about RSCs’ responsibilities in the RSC decision making framework (PDF, 217KB, 13 pages) and Regional Schools Commissioner decision making: 2020 (PDF, 163KB, 2 pages).

The schools causing concern guidance explains in more detail the action that RSCs may take when maintained schools and academies are underperforming.

Who we are

RSCs typically have backgrounds as experienced headteachers, chief executives of multi-academy trusts (MATs), or as leaders in education, or across the wider public sector.

There are 8 RSCs that operate across 8 regions in England:

Who we work with

RSCs work closely with a number of partners, including leaders from the education sector, Ofsted, local authorities and local dioceses.

RSCs work with multi-academy trusts, designated system leaders, such as teaching schools, and with the Teaching Schools Council, or other school improvement providers to provide access to the optional school improvement support offer.

RSCs work closely with local authorities in a number of ways, including helping to facilitate school improvement support and working with them on academy conversions.

RSCs also work closely with local dioceses, including to help ensure strong multi–academy trust structures are in place that will support their schools if they become academies.

Ofsted is responsible for inspecting and reporting on the quality of education that schools provide. The RSCs work with the relevant Ofsted regional directors to make sure that appropriate information is shared.

Working with the ESFA to provide oversight of the academies system

The ESFA communicates and regulates a clear framework of accountability through trusts’ funding agreements and the Academies Financial Handbook.

RSCs and the ESFA work together to provide oversight and scrutiny of 3 key functions of a trust:

  • educational performance (led by RSCs)
  • financial management (led by ESFA)
  • governance (RSCs and ESFA both contribute to this)

To do this, RSCs and ESFA consider and share a range of information to produce a joined-up assessment of performance:

  • education - RSCs consider a range of information, including pupils’ educational outcomes and Ofsted judgements
  • financial management - ESFA considers a range of information about the trusts’ financial management, including annual financial statements, account returns and 3 year budget forecasts
  • governance - RSCs and ESFA will also consider other relevant information on the governance of trusts, including the composition of a trust’s board, internal trust documents and the reports of external auditors

This evidence is used as a starting point to consider potential areas of concern as well as to test evidence of strong performance. This can help, for example, confirm the suitability of a trust to support new schools, inform decisions about whether to offer support or to decide whether intervention is required.

RSCs engage with trusts to ensure strong processes are in place to maintain and improve educational performance.

The ESFA has an intervention strategy that fits within the overall academy accountability framework. Intervention is always proportionate, risk-based and built on funding agreement and Academies Financial Handbook non-compliance.

In cases of failure both RSCs and ESFA may issue formal intervention notices – termination warning notices (issued by RSCs) and financial notices to improve (issued by ESFA) - to academy trusts. In response the academy trust may be required to submit a:

  • trust school improvement plan; or
  • financial recovery plan agreed between the trust and ESFA

RSCs and the ESFA also have an important role in building capacity of trust boards and leadership so that they can operate effectively within the accountability framework. They work with members, trustees, and leadership teams to:

  • Build school improvement capacity and financial expertise
  • Support better resource management
  • Strengthen governance oversight at leadership and board level

More broadly, the department and ESFA provides support through a range of resources for multi-academy trusts, support with resource management and optional activities such as a network and conferences.

Advisory boards

Advisory boards are responsible for advising and challenging regional schools commissioners on academy related decisions.

Read the terms of reference for advisory boards (PDF, 219KB, 19 pages) for more information.

Details including members lists, meeting schedules, preparation templates and notes are available on the advisory board page.

Find out more about academies and free schools

If you’re a local-authority-maintained school, information is available about converting to an academy.

You can also read about opening a free school.

Register of interest

We define these interests as any personal or business interest within the past 5 years which may be, or may be seen to be, influencing an RSC’s or advisory board member’s judgement in performing their role. These interests may include:

  • schools that they have direct responsibility for (in roles such as headteacher or executive headteacher)
  • academy trusts for which they work or serve on the governing body
  • all schools that are members of their affiliated academy trusts
  • schools for which they serve on the governing body
  • applications for free schools or academy conversions that they have submitted that are still awaiting decision
  • organisations involved in education, or organisations providing educational services, for which they work or serve as a board member (including for-profit and registered charities)
  • any other establishments for which they serve as a board member (including the type of organisation)

Other potential conflicts of interest include:

  • schools that they, their trust or their school have formally or informally supported
  • free school or academy conversion applications for which they have provided advice
  • organisations to which they were previously affiliated
  • any other organisations with which they are involved that may influence, or could be perceived to influence, their professional judgement in any way

See the register of interest for the National Schools Commissioner, regional schools commissioners and advisory board members (ODS, 72.1KB).

Complain about an RSC’s decision

If you want to make a complaint about an RSC’s decision, please email SchoolsCommissioner.PS@education.gov.uk.

Please provide us with as much detail as you can to help us investigate your complaint:

  • say which RSC you’re referring to
  • say what the problem is
  • say what you want to happen
  • provide information on any relevant communication with us on the subject, including, for example, any reference numbers on letters or emails, and the times and dates of any conversations

We’ll investigate all formal complaints in line with the Department for Education’s complaints procedure.

Information on complaining about a school or an academy is also available.

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