Erase LMS, Arise FASNA: Gove’s message to the School Liberation Front

Janet Downs's picture
In July, 2010, only weeks after becoming Secretary of State, Michael Gove met with the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association (FASNA). Shortly afterwards, when the Academies Bill had been rushed through Parliament, Gove addressed its autumn conference. But FASNA’s name had changed – it was now the Foundation, Aided Schools and Academies National Association.

Since then FASNA has been in the forefront of persuading schools to become academies. Just as the New Schools Network endorses free schools, FASNA backs academy conversion. It offers seminars and co-produces the Academy Magazine which contains numerous advertisements from companies offering services supplied to non-academies by local authorities (LAs).

Mr Gove admires FASNA - he described members as being “pioneers of excellence” in a speech to mark its 20th anniversary. But FASNA began in December 2004 and that isn’t twenty years ago.

So where did the 20 years come from? FASNA says the organisation grew from the Association of Head Teachers of Grant Maintained Schools (AHGMS) which began in 1992. It says it merged with AFVAS, AHFAS and FAVASA* in 2004. But AHGMS is not named at either Companies House or the Charities Commission as one of the organisations that amalgamated to form FASNA. And FASNA’s Financial Statement for the year ending 31 March 2009 (available from Charity Commission website) describes FASNA thus:

“Foundation and Aided Schools National Association - The Merger of AFVAS, AHFAS and FAVASA is constituted as a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. It is governed by its written constitution and was incorporated on 3 December 2004.”

But this didn’t stop Mr Gove from wishing FASNA a rather premature happy 20th birthday. Neither did it prevent him from portraying FASNA as a small band of plucky pioneers fighting for Freedom and Autonomy over two decades.

So why is FASNA promoting the idea that it sprouted from the Association of Head Teachers of Grant Maintained (GM) Schools? It was only one of many institutions associated with GM schools and was not identified as one of the merged groups which formed FASNA. One of FASNA’s named predecessors, the Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools, was formed in 1970 so why didn’t Mr Gove celebrate FASNA’s 42nd birthday?

Could it be because AFVAS doesn’t have head teachers in its name? Mr Gove likes to promote heads as being lone warriors in the same mould as Sir Michael Wilshaw’s “Pale Rider”. And the Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools sounds rather too wishy-washy – it hints at a more collegiate group rather than one which leads troops into battle.

Could it be because AFVAS was established before Grant Maintained schools, forerunners of academies, were established? AFVAS doesn’t contain the words “Grant Maintained” in its name and Mr Gove wants to portray Grant Maintained schools as being radical institutions which fought for Freedom and Autonomy.

The impetus behind school improvement, said Mr Gove, is “greater Freedom and Autonomy”. But in his Happy Birthday FASNA speech he forgot Local Management of Schools (LMS) established in 1988 which resulted in LAs delegating “a high proportion of budget and all management responsibilities” to all schools. And he ignored the 2009 OECD research that found UK schools were among only four countries that allowed the greatest freedom to all head teachers. According to Gove, FASNA alone brought Freedom and Autonomy.

So FASNA has been born again. It’s now the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools – National Association. I’m surprised it didn’t go further and call itself the School Liberation Front. But that would make it look silly.

*AFVAS: Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools ; AHFAS: the Association of Headteachers of Foundation and Aided Schools; FAVASA: the Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools Association Ltd

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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/07/2012 - 08:30

Political Scrapbook reveals that FASNA is receiving DfE money to run seminars during the autumn about how to convert to academy status.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 27/07/2012 - 10:48

Janet, what a strange post!

So why is FASNA promoting the idea that it sprouted from the Association of Head Teachers of Grant Maintained (GM) Schools?

....err....because it did? George Phipson, who was instrumental in forming FASNA and served as its general secretary until just recently was chair of the Association of Head Teachers of Grant Maintained Schools, while Helen Hyde, FASNA\s president was a GM school head in the 90s....etc.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 01/08/2012 - 15:48

UPDATE - I had intended to add a short update but it became too long. I've put more details of FASNA's convoluted and interrupted journey towards Freedom and Autonomy (by-passing LMS, of course) on the following thread:

David Barry's picture
Sat, 11/04/2015 - 18:15

Janet -

Another "Purdah" related enquiry here.

FASNA have posted a link on their website:--

(you can find it under "news" on their website here: )


1.They ARE a charity are they not? And am I right in seeing this article in the Daily Mail, which they endorse by linking to it on their web site as a call to vote conservative?

2. is there not something iffy about some of the claims made in the letter?

3. What do people think of Head Teachers, which some of the signatories are, signing, as Head Teachers and identifying themselves with a party political position in this way, apparently signing in their official capacity?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/04/2015 - 13:22

David - it would be up to the Charities Commission to decide whether the FASNA letter breached the rules on lobbying on behalf of a political party in the run-up to an election. Although the letter quotes Labour and LibDems, it calls on all parties to 'guarantee all current academy freedoms'.

The question hinges on whether criticising the Labour and LibDem position counts as lobbying. You could put your concerns to the Charities Commission here.

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