This is a piece I wrote for the latest Schools Network Academies Newsletter, explaining what the Principals’ Steering Group do.  The link to the whole publication is at the bottom of the post.

The Academy Principal’s Steering Group (APSG) represents the interests of  academies within The School’s Network (formerly SSAT). Growing out of the support network that sponsored academies have found crucial to their mission, the group meets four times a year in different academies around the country.

APSG is chaired by Andy Schofield, Principal of Wellington Academy in Wiltshire.  The Vice-Chair is Gareth Dawkins, Executive Principal of Bradford Academy and a board member of the YPLA. Other members reflect a wide range of academies across the country. Finances, and in particular the changes to post-16 funding, are a standing item at all our meetings, where we try to make sense of
national policy, respond to consultations and determine how to bring influence to bear with ministers or civil servants. Other major issues may be more current – so for example at our last meeting in 2011 we had a presentation from HMI on the new inspection framework, allowing us to examine the potential impact of the new regime on sponsored academies. The impact of new league table measures, national curriculum and qualification changes, as well as establishing sixth forms are other hot topics. We also don’t lose sight of the more interesting things that go on in our academies up and down the country, sharing ideas on innovation and emerging new practice.

APSG also ensures that within The Schools Network, issues that especially effect sponsored academies are highlighted, which can be through publications, conferences, special events or the various email networks for academy staff.

APSG is represented on the National Headteachers’ Steering Group, which is
an influential group of headteachers representing all the specialisms and regions
of The Network. They meet regularly with ministers and senior officials to lobby
on major policy issues. Making sure the distinctive voice of sponsored academies is heard here is crucial.   Despite the trials and tribulations of major change, building work, inspections and the inevitably high press profile (not all of it positive, by any means), we can draw strength from the fact that the central purpose of our work is to radically alter lives for thousands of children. This core purpose was the original reason academies existed and it remains at the  centre of our commitment to the communities we serve.  Knowing that there are  others working hard to succeed in similar circumstances, and drawing on their expertise and support, will only make us stronger in what we do. Your fellow Principals, through APSG and The Schools Network, are beavering away on your behalf to keep the flag flying.

Andy Schofield, Chair APSG

Newsletter No 22 February 2012