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Anyone's primary become (or about to become) an academy?

(37 Posts)
BusterGut Wed 20-Jul-11 22:18:47

If so, have you looked at advantages / disadvantages?

(We are looking at the possibility at the moment but no-one in the area committing themselves yet!)

IndigoBell Wed 20-Jul-11 22:45:54

We're looking at it too, and for primary schools it's a really tricky decision.

Also very much depends which LEA you're in and if you feel they're any good.

One big advantage is that if you're an academy the LEA can't expand the size of your school against your wishes. Nor can they merge sep infant and junior schools against your wishes. Nor can they take part of your field and build something else on it.

One big disadvantage is that by and large teachers are against becomming an academy, so you will antagonize the people you want to support.

BusterGut Wed 20-Jul-11 22:52:34

Why should teachers be against it? I thought there would be a possibility of a bonus scheme?

IndigoBell Wed 20-Jul-11 22:59:23

Teachers are against it because are worried about their pay and conditions

They like the fact that they are all paid the same. They don't want to worry about whether they're getting more or less than someone who has the same amount of experience as them.

And also the unions are all against it and are all telling the teachers it's a bad idea.

MM5 Thu 21-Jul-11 05:57:49

I work in a primary school that has converted to an academy and I am glad we did.

Advantages:

Control of the budget. Chains of academies are working together for economies of scale to save lots of money that, then in turn, is being used on the children. Also, you don't have the big top slice from the LEA. We are able to pick and choose services we want and not just those the LEA deem we need.

Control over the curriculum: We are able to decide what curriculum is right for our children. We continued to move forward with the creative curriculum because it is right for our children and in Sept. it will fully implemented. Thus, we did not waste the thousands of pounds of money that was put into the project before the new government deemed it as bad. We are very pleased with the curriculum as it is very tailored for our children's needs.

Control full stop: The LEA can't decide the school is not viable and close it down or make the school smaller or make the school larger. Yes, this is always a problem for lots of schools and everyone is on edge because of it.

Staff: Yes, there is the option to reward staff who put in extra effort. We looked at Terms and Conditions and decided that if the government wants to change them, they would. Low and behold, only a few months later, they DID with the change in the pension scheme! NOTHING is a safe or sure thing.

Disadvantages:

If a primary goes alone, you can't get the benefits of economies of scale.

The academy has to figure out and look at various service level agreements to decide on what they will use and what they won't use. However, once that is done, it isn't too bad.

I could go on and on..... a lot depends on the LEA the school belongs to and the full advantages it can take once it becomes an academy.

Also, there is A LOT of incorrect information out there. Don't even take my word for it or unions or newspapers. (A big one was around SEN and that academies wouldn't be getting SEN money or support. It is a statutory requirement of the local council to coordinate and dessiminate SEN money to all schools/academies that are funded by the government.) Ask the tough questions from the HT. Try to find the truth.

BusterGut Thu 21-Jul-11 20:00:15

Thanks for that MM5.

We already have the creative curriculum at school (which we rate highly). Presumably your academy's existing curriculum will over-ride anything Michael Gove hatches in 2013? is this set in stone?

When you say 'goes alone', do you mean you are with a 'chain' of primaries, or a primary/secondary mix? One of the things we are worried about is that we will be forged with one secondary, with no links to others. As we are in a grammar school area, this may be to our detriment.

pointythings Thu 21-Jul-11 21:07:52

DD2's primary is going academy in September. I'm a bit hmm about it - am all for them having independence - they are a very good school and I trust them to do right by the children where it concerns the teaching.

However, I am already hearing rumblings about a new uniform and am worried that the leadership will become dazzled with it all and throw away some fo the good stuff in their haste to go all 'new broom, sweep clean' IYSWIM. I've already got a middle school with a rip-off sole uniform supplier to deal with so am feeling very paranoid about this aspect of it.

MM5 Thu 21-Jul-11 21:08:28

We have control over our curriculum full stop. Whatever Gove comes up with is not any consequence to us. We follow national objectives. How we teach it is a right of an academy.

We are in a chain of academies that include both secondaries and primaries. We don't regret it as we use our secondaries to our advantage. smile

pointythings Thu 21-Jul-11 21:59:50

MM5 good on you for freeing yourself from the idiot Gove - I hope DD2's school does the same. That man does my head in.

nlondondad Sat 23-Jul-11 12:01:35

Obviously no school should become an academy without doing "due diligence" on what it means for the school. However at the moment this is very difficult to do as the financial arrangements are not at all clear and there is a lack of accurate information - made worse by the fact there there are groups with an axe to grind both pro and anti who put their own spin on what information is there.

Having looked into this in some depth my own view is that unless there is some specific pressing reason - for example a risk of being closed, forced to expand, or loose some of the site - a primary school should NOT become an academy at the moment, but wait until things are a lot clearer, which will probably not be until 2013, as Mr Gove has just announced that the new funding system for everybody will not come in before then -and possibly later.

(Basically at present an Academy does get some more money than an ordinary school, but it looses all the support it gets from the LEA, which it would then have to buy in -either from the LEA or a competitor. It is not clear, yet how much extra money, nor is it clear how much it would cost to buy the services. Once things are clearer then, taking the individual circumstances of the particular school into account. a decision for, or against could be possible.)

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 15:34:00

ACADEMY SCHOOLS

Questions parents frequently ask:

Q. What is an academy? A. An academy is an independent school funded by the state.
Taxation (your money) without representation, (having a say in the way it's run).

Q. The headteacher at my child’s school has said s/he wants the school to become an academy. Can the headteacher make that decision? A. No. A headteacher has no power to determine whether a school becomes an academy. The decision rests with the governing body and if the school is a voluntary aided or controlled school, with the relevant religious authorities.

Q. Is the school required to consult parents about becoming an academy? A. The governing body of the school makes the decision about the school applying to become an academy. The government is not requiring the governing body to consult parents or the community about this decision. However, there is nothing to prevent parents at the school seeking to influence the decision of the governing body and given the importance of the issue, they should do!
Q. How can parents make their views known about the school becoming an academy? A. Parents who wish to make their views known should contact the parent governors and the chair of governors requesting that a full consultation with all parents takes place. The governing body should be asked to give details of the pros and cons of converting the school to academy status. A public meeting should be sought to enable everyone with an interest in the future of the school to discuss the proposals. The local community may wish to call for a ballot on whether the school should apply for academy status. If the governors refuse to engage in consultation with parents or the local community, then you should protest to your local council, your local councillor and your local MP.

Q. Will becoming an academy mean that educational standards will be raised? A. There is no evidence that being an academy school raises standards. Academy schools have no better record of educational achievement than any other type of school. Some have a far worse record.

Q. Will there be more money for my child’s education if the school becomes an academy? A. The school will have no additional money. It will be allocated its share of the money that is currently held by the local authority to make provision across all schools for pupils with a whole range of special needs, pupil support, education welfare and school transport. Once the money is allocated to the school, it will have to make provision to replicate those important services previously provided by the local authority. It may find, if, for example, it has a significant number of pupils with special needs, that it has insufficient funds to match the provision previously provided by the local authority.

Q. Does becoming an academy mean that the school will get new buildings and facilities? A. The government is making no provision for new academies to have new buildings or facilities.

Q. Will there be additional costs for parents? A. Academies are not allowed to charge fees for pupils to attend the school. However, there may be hidden costs by academies introducing, for example, new school uniforms or charging for certain activities and use of resources.

Q. Will there be any changes to the catchment areas or admissions? A. Academies are their own admissions authority and, therefore, set their own admission policies. They are at present required to abide by the admissions code. Whilst academies cannot choose their intake, there is some evidence that academies’ intakes are not representative of their local community. Academies also have a higher exclusion rate than other types of schools.

Q. Will parents have more influence with academy schools? A. All available evidence shows that in existing academies the governing body becomes smaller as a result of either reducing or removing entirely parent governors and staff representatives.

Q. Once a school becomes an academy what can parents do if they are not happy with any decisions made?
A. In the first instance, as now, parents can complain to the school. However, academies are not part of the local authority family of schools and, therefore, if you are not satisfied or are unhappy with the outcome, parents cannot complain, as they can now, to the local authority or their local councillor to ask them to intervene on your behalf. Any complaints about the academy would have to be raised with the Secretary of State for Education in London.

Q. If a school becomes an academy and wants to change back, is that possible? A. No. A decision to become an academy is irreversible.

Q. Will the academy still work with the local council? A. Academies are independent schools and not maintained by the local authority. The whole basis of application for academy status is to encourage schools to break the link with the local council.

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 16:12:30

Q. Will becoming an academy help us to raise standards?
A. There is no evidence that converting to academy status will raise standards, particularly in schools that have already been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Most governors know that high standards in their schools are the result of excellent teaching to motivated pupils. No-one has been able to explain how changes in school structures make a difference to that. Government claims about the success of existing academies are highly controversial.
Q. Isn’t it a good thing that my school might get more freedom from local authority control?
A. Since the introduction of local management in the nineties, schools have managed themselves. If you are a governor of a foundation or voluntary aided school, you already are the employer of staff and have almost complete control. But by opting out of local authority ‘control’, academies also opt out of democratic accountability at local level and ‘opt in’ to central government control through a funding agreement.
Freedom from local authority control also means freedom from local authority support. You might be able to buy into their services, but if too many of your neighbours become academies the local authority might not be able to afford to maintain them. You would have to get insurance at commercial rates for the costs of redundancy and serious structural problems, and staff long-term absence or maternity leave. You would need to find money for pupils who need school transport or support for their behaviour, or for legal advice and very different accountancy and audit requirements.
The governing body would need, perhaps by buying in, expertise in procuring and managing a range of services currently provided by the authority. There would be no backstop, unless, like many existing academies, you contract to a private company or trust that charges a top-slice for services, in which case you have exchanged ‘local authority control’ for control by a private company. The National Governors’ Association (NGA) suggests that governors consult their authority about the cost of these services.
Whilst some savings could be made initially there is no guarantee that the costs of externally provided services will not increase exponentially. Experience of school meals and health service outsourcing has shown that whilst initially costs may have been lower once tied into a contract
costs soon escalated. Academy staff will need to spend time tendering and monitoring external providers.
Q. Will academy status give my school extra funding?
A. According to the Department for Education (DfE) website, the government’s policy is: “Academies are funded on a like-for-like basis with LA-maintained schools.”
This means:
• Taking into account additional resources for services currently provided by your authority, if you are better off, that would be against government policy and would be due to inaccurate calculations, which presumably could be corrected later.
• If many schools become academies, the government might have to revise the amount of financial support it can give.
• If funding for all schools is reduced from April 2011, you would share the pain.
You would receive £25,000 for the conversion process, but the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust advises that legal fees alone could amount to £50,000.
Q. Are the accounting arrangements for academies different to schools?
Schools need to produce accounts that comply with the Companies Act. The accounts are completely different from CFR returns and need to follow charities and company law requirements. The accounts are normally for an accounting period ending at 31 August. They can be completed by the school bursar but the school may need to buy in expertise if there is insufficient experience of doing such accounts. The software requirements really depend on the volume of transactions, and professional advice should be sought. Academies’ accounts have to be audited by an external auditor appointed and paid for by the academy; this takes place in autumn each year.
Q. My school will be able to set our own pay and conditions. Doesn’t this mean that we will be better able to attract top staff to the school by offering very competitive salaries?
A. Using what money (see above)? National pay scales are very flexible and schools have a great deal of flexibility in determining the salary level of staff by using TLR payments or by creating posts on the excellent teacher, advanced skills teacher or leadership pay spines. In addition, where schools are experiencing difficulty in attracting or retaining staff, recruitment and retention allowances can be awarded.
Academies are required to offer membership of either the Teachers’ Pension Scheme or Local Government Pension Scheme to eligible staff.
Q. If we become an academy, do we have to take responsibility for pension arrangements of staff instead of the LA?
Teachers working in an academy are eligible to join the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), just as if they were employed in a local authority maintained school. Staff transferring from a maintained predecessor would simply continue their membership of the Scheme. As the employer, the academy would be responsible for remitting contributions to the TPS and for all other administrative responsibilities that fall to employers who employ teachers who are subject to the teachers' pensions regulations. Teachers' Pensions, whose contact details can be found at the bottom of this page, administer the Scheme on behalf of the Department and will provide you with full information about the role and responsibility of employers in relation to Scheme administration.
Support staff are eligible to be members of the Local Government Pension Scheme and arrangements will need to be made within the academy to administer these arrangements.
Q. Will becoming an academy mean we are no longer inspected by Ofsted?
A. All ‘outstanding’ schools will no longer be subject to Ofsted inspections. If governors want some external validation of the school’s self-evaluation, you will have to pay for it.
However, the Secretary of State will continue to monitor the performance of the academy and could, at any time, order an inspection.
Q. What about other schools locally?
A. Of course governors will be concerned about the pros and cons of all this in their own school. But your decision will impact on other schools locally and across the authority. What is the morality of taking a slice of the authority’s budget? If too many schools become academies, the authority will be unable to offer its services to any of its schools. The average outstanding school has fewer pupils with SEN than schools around it, but perhaps you have a duty to all such children within your area? And is it right for the authority to lose its duty to monitor how your admissions policy is working? There are lots of ethical issues here as well as self-interest.
Q. Do we have to consult with anyone before we decide to become an academy?
A. Government policy is: “We expect all schools to discuss this intention with students, parents and the local community to ensure they understand the change proposed.” The NGA ‘strongly recommend that governing body carry out a formal consultation process with parents, students, staff and local partners’. The NGA’s Q&A document contains
helpful suggestions of the information that parents, staff, pupils and local partners might need in order to make informed decisions. It also suggests that the governing body should enable supporters and opponents of academy status to circulate relevant materials to other consultees.
Q. So should my school seek to become an academy?
A. The risks associated with becoming an academy far outweigh any potential benefits. The NGA’s Q&A document contains a range of important information and practical issues to consider before converting to academy status.
Q. As a primary school are there additional considerations?
A. primary schools are usually smaller than secondary schools and so you need to consider whether the staff have the necessary skills and time to devote to the complexities of operating without local authority support. It may be necessary for the school to employ additional support staff – for example a bursar or business manager – to fulfil the additional responsibilities. Consideration must be given as to what effect this will have on any additional funding given to the school.
Q. Should our governing body take a decision now?
A. There is no compulsion for schools to convert to academy status so there is no need to do anything. As the decision to become an academy is a major change in the school’s status, and once taken cannot be changed. Governing bodies should take time to consider all the issues, to find all relevant information and to consult with all who will be affected, before making the decision. It is possible for the Academy or the Secretary of State end the academy agreement by giving seven years notice but this does not return the school to local authority control.

IndigoBell Sat 23-Jul-11 17:39:28

See, a great example of the misleading propoganda being spouted.

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 18:05:40

Indigo, which bit do you disagree with? ..."Governing bodies should take time to consider all the issues, to find all relevant information and to consult with all who will be affected, before making the decision." or "....you need to consider whether the staff have the necessary skills and time to devote to the complexities of operating without local authority support....."
Perhaps its the NGA document?

IndigoBell Sat 23-Jul-11 18:50:34

Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself.

There are loads of half truths and untruths in your posts - and all of it is slanted in a certain way.

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 19:32:02

Thanks for the definition of propaganda ref. wikipedia. I note that that particular definition goes on to state..."propaganda in its original sense was neutral..." but the thread isn't about propaganda.

I'm still very interested in knowing which bits of my post are untrue, I'll certainly ammend my post and address the "slant" as you describe it.

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 19:39:46

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 brought in legislation for the first time to prevent the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields. The Labour Government introduced further measures, culminating with the strictest rules in 2004:
Ref:Standard Note: SN/SC/1096

IndigoBell Sat 23-Jul-11 19:43:08

Well all of it's slanted confused

But here are some examples.....

It may find, if, for example, it has a significant number of pupils with special needs, that it has insufficient funds to match the provision previously provided by the local authority.

there may be hidden costs by academies introducing, for example, new school uniforms or charging for certain activities and use of resources.

You would have to get insurance at commercial rates for the costs of redundancy and serious structural problems, and staff long-term absence or maternity leave.

You would need to find money for pupils who need school transport

National pay scales are very flexible and schools have a great deal of flexibility in determining the salary level of staff

The average outstanding school has fewer pupils with SEN

The risks associated with becoming an academy far outweigh any potential benefits.

but the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust advises that legal fees alone could amount to £50,000.

IndigoBell Sat 23-Jul-11 19:48:42

So here are the way things are in my borough:

The LEA is already making staff redundant left, right and centre. Nothing to do with academies - instead to do with the govt cutting their budget.

We already have to 'buy back' an enormous amount of services from the LEA.

They already provide an inadequate service for SEN -as do most LEAs

They are expanding schools that don't want to be expanded

Merging schools that don't want to be merged

The LEA feels free to build on school land.

It does not cost anywhere near £25k to convert to an academy

The services they do provide are mostly not good

When we ask them for help they are unable to provide it

We don't know how much money any school will get next year - LEA or Academy

We don't know what services the LEA will provide next year - or how much they will charge for it

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 21:16:49

Yes, Thanks IndigoBell, I note your comments/points. As I have an industrial/ commercial background, I can see why some governors would be persuaded to convert to academy and run their own business. I would urge readers to carry out their own research, (I charge by the hour smile), from the questions raised/points stated and the sources identified and the many others, information is readily available and I’ve made several Freedom of Information requests to make my own conclusion.
Making a brief reference to your response, it’s Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (not me), advises that legal fees alone could amount to £50,000.
Who else might pay for school transport I wonder? I wouldn’t expect the LA to pay twice!
Again, with the remaining responses I would refer readers to at least the named sources and look forward to reading evidence to the contrary.
Most of the information Q and A’s etc; are from the Government, the National Governors Association, National Grammar Schools Assn; Campaign for Real Education and Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. I think it’s very important to point out that I’ve referenced all my sources; and I suppose the government sums up below.
Principle of funding
The principle of academies' funding is that academies should receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority (LA) as a maintained school. They also receive funding to meet their additional responsibilities that are no longer provided for them by the LA.
The Government is clear that becoming an academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school. However, academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets, alongside the other freedoms that they enjoy.
Ref. Department for Education.
www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies/becominganacademy/a0061399/academy-funding
As for my using the word “may”, e.g. “It may find, if, for example...” and “there may be hidden costs...” as you have identified, whether one would define “may” as “slanted”...? I’m not sure.
I agree school size seems to also have a direct impact on pupils. From a report, staff who work in a school with more than 500 pupils on the roll, 50 per cent believe that the size of their school has an impact on pupil behaviour in terms on bullying; with a further 43% saying it has an impact on fighting. So class/school size is important. In the current economic climate, school mergers are becoming more common. While merger is generally welcomed as a potential way to preserve a school in difficulty, it can be a trying time. It may be a significant contribution, working with school management to avoid compulsory (not voluntary), redundancies.

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 22:00:05

I am genuinely interested in the opinion/updates, based on evidence/facts/references that I can research, from those members of this community, over the next 24 months.

BobbyWaring Sat 23-Jul-11 23:16:41

www.thetruthaboutourschools.com/2010/06/15/a-legal-opinion-on-the-academies-bill/

This might be slanted

BobbyWaring Mon 25-Jul-11 00:26:12

National Curriculum will change for all schools anyway and be reformed to become a benchmark for judging a school’s performance, there will be a new qualification, the English Baccalaureate, and a phonics test at age 6, governing bodies will become smaller (so watch it all you governors out there), and local authorities will become champions for parents, families and vulnerable pupils. Ofsted will focus on key issues of educational effectiveness with new ‘floor standards’ for primary and secondary schools.
Ref. DfE

The main difference between an LA school and an academy is that the governors hold the purse strings in the academy and even then that already happens in in many LMS and VA schools, (where the governors are the employer).
The ultimate idea I can only guess is to reduce school budgets and have sponsors for the school, as in the example of carphone warehouse at Fulwood Preston, at the moment the new "convertor" academies cant have sponsors.

MM5 Mon 25-Jul-11 08:17:52

"The ultimate idea I can only guess is to reduce school budgets and have sponsors for the school, as in the example of carphone warehouse at Fulwood Preston, at the moment the new "convertor" academies cant have sponsors."

That is untrue. A convertor academy CAN join with sponsors and have.

Not all sponsors are "business" sponsors. MANY are education based sponsors. Here you can a list of academies that show some of the sponsors

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/63584/response/167358/attach/3/Academy%20Lead%20Sponsors%20YPLA%20DfE%20agreed%20list%20060411.xls

Some more about sponsorship of academies can be found here:

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies/sponsoring/b0077642/sponsoring-a-school-to-become-an-academy/the-range-of-existing-academy-sponsors

In my experience, the legal cost for transferring to an academy is not costing anywhere near £25,000. This is not just with one academy, but with several academies.

There is the "hidden costs for parents". Again, these are no different than from a maintained school. Schools change uniforms, logos, ask for donations for trips and activities. I can find numerous threads on this forum that parents are complaining about.

I am confused by the SEN issue you allude to. The LEA has a statutory duty with regard to SEN. That means that money is funded directly to LA DIRECTLY for SEN for all schools/academies within the area. The money for SEN SHOULD NOT be coming from a top slice that the LA is taking from maintained schools (many LEAs have been muddling this up with top slicing for so long they even forgot what was what). The process for assessment for SEN is the same if it is a maintained school or an academy. It is in the best interest of ALL schools/academies to do these assessments and seek funding to support these children.

BobbyWaring...I have read what you have written and I understand the sources you are getting your information from. What is missing and, I expect will be happening over the next year, is data and evidence of what really does happen in NEW academies. (All data to date tends to be based on old style forced academies and most of those are secondaries.)

BobbyWaring Mon 25-Jul-11 23:57:27

MM5 , thanks for this , interesting stuff, quite right in the sponsorship and not necessarily having a financial sponsor, the Cof E appear to be the over-riding authority in some cases, I suppose as part of the foundation trustees and the recent anouncement confirming plans to hand control of 200 poorly performing academies to high performing schools or academy chains, backs-up your comment. I understand that some of the chains are now as large as small unitary authorities!
What I should have said was "don't need" not "can't". and that the outstanding schools must support a "not outstanding" one.
What seems unclear is what would happen to a persistantly "inadequate" school, even with sponsorship?

I do agree that the £25k grant from central government, (although it's not clear what "pot" that money comes from), to cover the costs I would consider to be enough, to re-brand, letter heads, and uniforms for the admin staff, signage etc... although the licencing for SIMS etc... may prove a little more expensive.

The SEN, as far I'm aware from statistics, there are less SEN pupils in outstanding schools, I wasn't trying to suggest that the assesment for SEN provsion should change, I think what I was alluding to was the £500m topsliced from the LA's in anticipation to fund academies as well as the LA providing SEN funding.

Of course this government can't allow the new academies to fail, it would be political suicide, so they will work at whatever cost, until a different government is elected and suddenly they aren't the "flavour of the month." The next few years will be relatively interesting in education.

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