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Trust issues: Education think-tank calls for academies programme to be brought to an end

#SpendingReview2019 EDSK on Academies

As pupils start their new academic year across the country, a new report from the EDSK think tank calls for the ‘Academies’ programme to be closed down as part of a major set of reforms to the school system in England.

The report called “Trust issues” recommends that the government ends the divide between academies and maintained schools by creating a single state education system that puts every school on a ‘level playing field’.

The report identifies numerous problems caused by the current divisions between academies and maintained schools. While every maintained school is overseen by a single governing body, academies are run under complex management structures similar to those found in corporations.

This means that there is barely any transparency around important decisions affecting the future of local schools, which can leave parents and communities in the dark.

The report also raises concerns about the exorbitant pay for chief executives and senior leaders in some ‘multi-academy trusts’, which has harmed the reputation of the academies programme. In addition, academies are more likely to fail to meet their responsibilities for running a fair admissions system, often by not accepting vulnerable pupils or by circumventing the schools admissions code.

The report concludes that a new approach to state education is needed to take the best of what the academies programme has promoted – more autonomy for headteachers, greater innovation and the use of collaboration between schools to drive up standards – and combine this with the foundations of the maintained school system – a commitment to fairness, openness and a local approach to schooling. In doing so, the new state school system proposed in this report can gain the trust of parents, teachers, communities and politicians from all parties.

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“There is now huge dissatisfaction with the academies programme and a realisation that its inherent structural problems are not possible to resolve. The call to reinstate local democratic accountability of schools is being made across the political spectrum.

“This is a clear attempt to breathe life into a dying programme before this happens. What it would amount to in practice is the total academisation of the school system by central government diktat. It would also involve an expansion of the unelected and unaccountable Regional Schools Commissioner bureaucracy. It would actually reduce democratic accountability and make it harder for parents and staff to understand and navigate the system.

“Academies have resulted in a fractured and confusing schools landscape. They have driven down wages and terms and conditions for staff, reduced accountability for parents, staff, pupils and local authorities and caused a huge amount of money to be wasted on the administrative costs of conversion and managing a chaotic system. We agree that it is better to have one system for state schools in England rather than two, but in light of this we cannot understand the logic that leads the report’s authors to conclude this means plumping for an academised system.

“The reality is that it would be far preferable, easier and better for everyone to reinvigorate local democratic structures, than to build upon the failure that is the academies programme.” 

Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr Judith Blake, said:

“Academisation isn’t always the best or only solution.

“Staying under council control delivers better results for a school than those which convert to an academy.

“Not only do more schools keep a good or outstanding rating if they remain maintained, but a significantly greater proportion are being turned around from struggling or failing into highly performing and successful schools.

“This is why in the upcoming Spending Round, the Government needs to give councils the powers to open new maintained schools where that is the local preference.

“It should also allow councils to intervene and improve all types of school found to be inadequate – regardless of whether it is a maintained school or academy.”

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