New select committee chair to examine roles of school commissioners

The new chair of the Commons Education Select Committee wants to examine the widening remit of regional school commissioners as a matter of urgency and has raised concerns about the lack of detail on how they will work.

Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud, was named as the committee’s chair this morning in Parliament. He also wants to produce a joint report with the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee into the country’s productivity.

Speaking to TES, Mr Carmichael said he was eager to find out what exactly the regional school commissioners will be doing as part of the government’s drive to crack down on “failing” and “coasting” schools.

The commissioners’ role will become even more influential once the Education and Adoption Bill is passed, as it will give them much greater powers to intervene in schools that are deemed to be struggling.

Some commentators believe the eight commissioners will effectively become proxy education secretaries in their respective regions.

“The role of the regional school commissioners is an area that needs much greater exploration,” Mr Carmichael said. “We don’t have enough detail in terms of width and depth of their roles and how they are going to work, which we need because they are going to be playing a major part in the coasting schools issue.”

He said he will also be seeking a definition of what “coasting” means as soon as possible.

One of the first reports Mr Carmichael intends to launch, however, will look into the productivity of the country and how the UK can increase the skills of its workforce.

“We need 83,000 engineers a year over the next 10 years in order to meet demand, so that is part of the story about productivity I want to look at. How we can upskill the workforce, which will mean looking at school qualifications and what the output of our schools is like,” he said.

Mr Carmichael, who has a background in agriculture, including breeding a large “suckler cow” herd, was elected to Parliament in 2010. He replaces Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, who stepped down as chair last month.

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