What if schools turn into academies?

At the beginning of 2016 the UK government proposed to turn all schools into academies. However, in May 2016, the Guardian newspaper reported that the government has abandoned plans to change all state schools in England to become academies. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/may/06/government-backs-down-over-plan-to-make-all-schools-academies

The original plan was that all state schools in England should become academies by the year 2022. Now this will not happen, although the DfE believes that more and more schools will choose, rather than being force, to turn into academies.

What are academies exactly?

Some of us in the teaching profession are a little unclear about what an academy actually is. Let’s examine the differences and similarities between academies and the state schools we currently have.

  • State schools are under the control of local authorities while academies will be independent state schools where the head teacher is in charge. The head will be overseen by academy trusts which can supply support and expertise to heads.
  • State schools are funded by local authorities, whereas academies are expected to receive their funding directly from the central government.
  • Schools which are deemed to be ‘failing’ have, in the past been turned into academies, but it won’t just be failing schools that will become academies in the future.
  • Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum. This may or may not be a good thing.

(N.B. The academy proposals are for England and not the whole of the UK.)

There are currently (May 2016) 4,515 academies in England, with half of state secondary schools already academies. (Data from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13274090)

Benefits of academies

In the beginning academies were undeniably better funded than state schools, although now the gap is closing. However, academies are better resourced than state schools on the whole. The extra funds from LACSEG (Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant) enables academies to prioritise their needs and address them. Undoubtedly academies have more funds as no money is directed to the local authorities.

Drawbacks to the academy schools

Critics of academy schools say that one potential drawback is that theoretically, academies could change admission policies and draw up their own terms and conditions which could be detrimental to staff. On the other hand, such changes could be beneficial, depending on how these were altered.

The government’s Education Secretary has considerable power which used to be exercised by local authorities. Again, this can be both good and bad for academies. Academies do not have to consult parents, students or the local community and so are virtually autonomous.

Academies are not necessarily centres of excellence. Ofsted have identified at least two academies as ‘failing.’ Academic success us definitely not assured in academies.

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