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Academies, foundation, free schools - help me understand.

(5 Posts)
harryhausen Fri 10-May-13 13:09:08

I don't think in stupid (I know I'm not) but I simply can't get the differences between all these 'new' schools in my head.

I'm in Bristol. We don't have any grammer schools here. I'm fairly limited to secondary schools that are all a bit average, although I'm fairly near the border of North Somerset which has a few better ones.

My local comp has just changed to an Academy. What exactly does this mean? All I find out is that they don't have as much input from the council. In real terms, what does this really mean? The other comp near (ish) says its a foundation school and is responsible for its own admissions. Does this simply just mean you apply to the school itself for a place?

Talking to people, some think Academies are wonderful - but I got talking to a teacher at a party recently who said at her (Ofsted outstanding) school they had to fight 'tooth and nail' to avoid being an academy. She was hugely down on it, but I didn't get a chance to dig furthersmile

So can any explain to me simply what all this means and what are the pros and cons?

I have a while yet before applying to secondary school but already I'm quite stressed about the lack of choiceshmm

Anyone enlighten me?

prh47bridge Fri 10-May-13 13:26:10

An academy receives its funding direct from the government. For a community school the funding goes from the government to the LA who keep some back to fund services that they provide and then pass the rest on to the school. An academy does not receive these services from the LA so has to get them from another source if it needs them, which could include buying the service from the LA. Academies have greater freedom over teachers pay, curriculum and admissions than community schools. They are responsible for their own admissions so they can set their own admission criteria, although they must still comply with the Admissions Code. You still apply to the LA if you want a place at the school.

A free school is identical to an academy. It is a name used for a brand new academy as opposed to an existing school converting to academy status. Note that schools rated as Outstanding can convert to academies if they want but schools rated Inadequate can be forced to convert and must have a sponsor - a charity that will be responsible for running the school. Outstanding schools that convert can choose whether or not to have a sponsor.

A foundation school is funded by the LA. Like an academy it can set its own admission criteria but you still apply to the LA for a place at the school.

harryhausen Fri 10-May-13 13:36:21

Great thanks Bridge. It's good to have it set out simplysmile

So basically most of these schools that are now Academies/Foundation schools just have more control over the running of their school - admissions in particular. Are they allowed to be selective at all (academically) in their admissions? If not, why is it any different in admissions to LA control?

prh47bridge Fri 10-May-13 14:09:56

Academies have significantly more control over the running of their school than Foundation schools, e.g. an Academy has some freedom over curriculum whereas a Foundation School must follow the National Curriculum.

No they cannot select academically (unless it is a grammar school that has converted to academy status). But they might use a lottery rather than distance to select. They could measure distances differently. They might choose to give priority on social/medical grounds even if the LA doesn't. They could define a priority area for admissions. And so on.

If you look at your LA's admissions booklet you will probably see that all the community schools use the same admission criteria. You will also see that Voluntary Aided faith schools use different criteria which are set by the school. Like an academy, a VA school is responsible for its own admission criteria. Some of the changes for VA schools will be about selecting on faith grounds, which an academy is not allowed to do unless it is designated as a faith school. But it is likely there will be other differences as well. That is the same kind of thing as could happen with academies.

harryhausen Fri 10-May-13 14:21:35

Thanks again. Really helpful grin

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