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Academies. What's the deal?

(17 Posts)

Just had a fascinating conversation with a teacher friend who's just admitted even he doesn't know what the difference between a school and an academy.

if teachers aren't sure how are parents supposed to make informed decisions?

Do you know the difference? Could you explain it to me in layman's terms?

candyflossisevil Sat 18-May-13 11:53:28

I think an academy is a school that was previously struggling, maybe in special measures and has been given extra funding and support, that may be bollocks though so don't hold me to it grin

prh47bridge Sat 18-May-13 12:17:35

Some academies will be schools that were previously struggling and now have an external sponsor. Others are schools that were outstanding and have converted, often without an external sponsor. Free schools are another form of academy - these are brand new schools.

The government provides the LA with funding for community schools. The LA then deducts something for the services it provides (the amount deducted varies hugely from LA to LA) and passes on the rest to the school. In contrast an academy receives its funding direct from the government. It therefore receives more per pupil than a community school but has to find services for itself that the LA provides to community schools. One option which some academies have taken is to buy those services from the LA but they can get them elsewhere or even do without if they don't need them.

An academy sets its own admission criteria and has greater freedom over teachers pay and curriculum.

muminlondon Sun 19-May-13 13:48:40

There's a critical article from last year which points out differences. I'll summarise it along with more recent info.

1. The policy of rapid expansion of academies and forced conversion is driven by ideology - it reduces the effectiveness and power of LAs and is seen by some as a process for privatisation and eventual profit-making.

2. Schools with good Ofsted ratings were encouraged to convert because they thought they would get extra money. That amount has been adjusted already.

3. It places power in the hands of the Secretary of State while severing' links with democratically elected local authorities. There is no requirement to consult parents, or staff, etc.

4. Sponsored academies have lower attainment than LA maintained schools.

5. Academies can set their own curriculum if agreed with the DfE. Sponsored academies have inflated GCSE results through the use of equivalent vocational qualifications. But Ebacc results are much lower than in LA schools.

6. Academies have the right to set their own pay and conditions. In the most recent DfE workplace survey teachers are paid less, and heads paid more, than in LA schools.

7. There have been financial scandals about academy chains like E-ACT and the public accounts committee has criticised te £1 billion overspend on converting good/outstanding schools to academy status. This has included nearly £100 million in extra insurance on the lease of school grounds transferred from the local authority to individual academy trusts.

8. The academies policy, especially forced conversion, has been criticised by headteachers, parents, local Conservative council leaders and MPs and even Ofsted inspectors. But the stock response from the DfE is: 'We believe that the best way forward for an underperforming school is to become an academy with the support of a sponsor. ' Gove dismisses critics as 'enemies of promise', Trots and 'the Blob'.

9. They have been accused of excluding more pupils (unofficially) which impacts other schools.

10. There are about 50 academies judged inadequate by Ofsted including 13 converter academies.

HabbaDabba Wed 22-May-13 22:29:14

There is no chance of the New Statesman being biased eh? grin

A lot of failing/failed schools become academies. Until they have time to dig themselves out of the hole of course they aren't going to get a good Ofsted rating

muminlondon Wed 22-May-13 23:34:39

If you read this 150-page report by the Academies Commission, a body otherwise supportive of academies and set up by Pearson/RSA, you will find criticisms of the way academies are operating now along with recommendations.

It explains the different types of academies - sponsored, converter, forced, free schools (which can be sponsored).

In summary it argues for more collaboration, transparency and accountability, fairer admissions and appeals process, data on applications and acceptances for school places in relation to FSM, better framework for planning and commissioning of school places by LAs which currently cannot set up their own schools or direct academies to expand to meet demand. It also recommends more rigorous selection of sponsors, an annual report on comparative performance of sponsors, funding agreements for sponsorship reduced from seven years to five, etc.

You could also read this recent Commons debate on forced academisation where Conservative MPs voice opinions on the varying quality of academies.

And you can read the Public Accounts Committee report on managing academies expansion scrutinising how the £1 billion extra was spent on converting good/outstanding schools to academies and removing them from LA control.

What I found interesting was the former director of the free schools network said 'there is a less high quality bar for who becomes a sponsor of an academy than for who becomes a sponsor of a free school'. This process was described by the Academies Commission as 'the beauty parade of sponsors'.

And finally for an alternative school improvement programme see this BBC article on the London Challenge and the DfE report that it links to: 'City schools scheme 'more effective than academies'. This links to the Academies Commission report which suggests that federations of local schools may be better than forced academisation with a sponsor.

HabbaDabba Thu 23-May-13 06:34:21

Thanks for the links mum. I'll have a read later

prh47bridge Thu 23-May-13 18:45:31

Be sceptical about everything you read and check facts carefully. People on both sides of the debate have a tendency to be somewhat liberal with the facts. Don't believe claims made by supporters or opponents until you have checked the evidence yourself.

HabbaDabba Thu 23-May-13 18:51:27

I followed a number of links provided by MNetters and I got the impression that the whole academic community was against Gove's proposals for History.

Then I went to the BBC website. Apparently 15 notable Historians including Professor David Starkey and Niall Ferguson signed a letter to The Times supporting Gove's proposal.

So much for the claim that all/most historians were anti Grove. Makes me wonder how impartial these other links are.

muminlondon Thu 23-May-13 20:21:30

A few other more impartial sources to follow up:

National Audit Office report on Capital Funding for School Places]].

- 256,000 new school places needed by 2014/15; 240,000 are primary places (37% in London).
- Only 8,800 of the 24,500 new free school places (to 2012) have been in primary schools and most will not be operating at their full capacity by 2014/15.
- LAs have no powers to direct academies and free schools to expand to take more pupils.

prh47bridge's advice is just as valid for government press releases - lies, damn lies and statistics and all that. Full fact is a useful website for delving behind both government spin and tabloid headlines. For example, on the relative progress of academies and other schools.

You can also find out interesting things from these parliamentary briefing papers. E.g.:

Converter Academies Statistics
Education: Historical Statistics
Academies
Free Schools

muminlondon Thu 23-May-13 20:25:55

Also note that there is something of a propaganda war being fought by the DfE at the moment. They have been under special monitoring by the Information Commissioner for not responding to FOI requests:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20809641

muminlondon Thu 23-May-13 20:42:27

Channel 4 did a useful blog on academies' performance too - more fact checking:

blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck/8994

The Guardian did a datablog on who the sponsors of academies are - although now a bit out of date:

www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/sep/26/academies-sponsors-list-map

morethanpotatoprints Thu 23-May-13 20:48:46

Being completely selfish here, we love the academies. It is boosting our business profits and dh and colleagues manage at least one booking a week. As academies have to source their own extracurricular activities they are not governed by LA employees so quite often employ private sector professionals which are more often better quality than LA provision.
So the dc experience activities not normally provided for in normal state schools.

Talkinpeace Thu 23-May-13 21:07:20

morethan
DH has been going into State schools for 15 years, as have the dozens of other people who do what he does.
Bookings are unchanged since the start of academies.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 23-May-13 21:26:49

Talkinpeace.

The only thing my dh has had from an LA is one booking for one workshop they don't have the money. He has at least one booking for an academy each week and they pay for however many colleagues they require. He took a full professional big band to his last one and they provided masterclasses and a concert for parents at night.
LEAs can only afford one big concert per term usually and their Peris provide the education. its hardly a comparison.

Talkinpeace Thu 23-May-13 21:48:54

Does your DH get much work in fee paying schools and special schools?
And are the academies he works in pre or post 2010?

morethanpotatoprints Thu 23-May-13 22:19:13

Hi Talkinpeace.

I think post 2010 as he has commented more than once that the HT had said they were new.
Yes he does get work at private schools and some specialist too, sometimes they take dancers too depending on what the school want. The musicians travel the length and breadth of the country so any school can access the service they provide. its all down to cost and funding though. LA's tend not to employ companies like this because they manage a tight budget and can't afford the fees. It is fair enough as they have to cover the whole county and have other priorities.
I don't have anything against local provision, it is good here and my dd accesses everything that is going and enjoys her ensembles and choir very much.

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