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Academies - for and against?

(16 Posts)
Swanhildapirouetting Sat 15-Feb-14 14:03:03

Can anyone sum up the academy debate for me. I feel I should be better informed.

Why is a bad thing for schools to be forcibly converted to academies. What do they lose out on as a result?

What do schools gain by becoming academies - what are the positives?

Is it a Labour v Tory issue. I thought Labour brought in the first academies.

legoballoon Sat 15-Feb-14 14:25:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TalkinPeace Sat 15-Feb-14 14:41:58

more than half of all secondary schools are now academies

the next wave will be for Ofsted to put a load of the stand alone converters into Special measures so they can be handed to Gove's chums in the chain companies and the profits start being siphoned offshore

straggle Sat 15-Feb-14 14:52:05

There is a difference between sponsored academies and converter academies. Labour had about 200 of the former but Gove twisted the meaning of 'academy' to accelerate the privatisation of education for his chums, as Talkin said.

You could read the Academies Commission report from a year ago which says sponsored academies under Gove do not come with new buildings but have a lot less autonomy for headteachers within the new chains.

There is much evidence that pupils in sponsored academies are more likely to be pushed into 'easier' equivalents (although they will have less weighting from 2014 in the league tables) and pupils are making less progress than in LA maintained schools of similar intakes. See the NFER report which concludes this.

Then there are converter academies. They were the schools already judged good or outstanding which often have advantages such as selection by ability (grammars are mostly academies now), or by religion - and for ex-voluntary aided schools it's a big plus to be an academy because the state pays 100% of their capital costs, not just 90%.

Meanwhile, LAs are weakened by having half their schools become academies as their budgets/scope for economy of scale or efficient services is being eroded.

There is a worry that the school system is fragmenting into the 'secondary post-moderns' (from which profit-making organisations are looking to make money but parents themselves have no representation) and 'neogrammars' (schools which were never hampered by the LA but are consolidating their existing advantages).

straggle Sat 15-Feb-14 15:09:06

Gove's chums include Lord Nash, who is a minister at the DfE and founder with his wife of the Future Academies chain (and employed a head with no teaching experience, and Theodore Agnew, board director at the DfE, founder of the Inspiration Academies Trust, trustee of the right-wing thinktank Gove founded and of the New Schools Network (set up by another Gove adviser). Gove has not ruled out Agnew as new chair of Ofsted so he can, er, inspect his own schools and say how good they are.

prh47bridge Sat 15-Feb-14 15:10:05

Talkinpeace remains convinced that all academies are run by crooks. They are charities which means profits cannot be legally be siphoned offshore. Of course, being a charity does not prevent malpractice but nor does any other form of organisation.

TalkinPeace Sat 15-Feb-14 15:19:03

Talkinpeace remains convinced that all academies are run by crooks

Standalone academies are plodding along, buying in most of their services from the LA, but with much less oversight.

Academy chains are run by business people.
They may have a charity in charge of the fabric of the school, but that charity buys in services from companies controlled by those same business people and companies are there to make a profit.

At present there is no proper oversight of academy chain companies, despite the fact that they have control over millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers money.

I do not believe they are crooks, but I have absolutely no faith in the oversight provided by the Charity Commission, Companies House, or the Dfe

and there is no replacement yet for the Audit Commission who used to oversee school finances.

yourlittlesecret Sat 15-Feb-14 15:27:23

Our school was converted to a stand alone academy, it was the last one in the LA to become an academy, although most of the others were swallowed up by chains.
They buy in all the services from the LA and I remain unconvinced of any benefits. There has been no visible change to outsiders, certainly no expensive uniform change although it didn't have a poor image to address.

Sponsored academies - another thing entirely, normally poor schools to begin with. One local school with a dismal reputation was converted by a chain. New uniforms etc. It got even worse. Only 20% GCSE passes and lo it went into special measure (again). The original chain dumped and ran and now it has been taken over by another. My friend's DC has her 3rd uniform in 4 years.

LightNC Sat 15-Feb-14 15:37:22

Sometimes schools think they will have more money / budget to spend after converting to an Academy.

They're wrong. They have to buy in services that were previously provided by the LA.

I also tend to agree with TalkinPeace. The structures are nowhere near as well organised or accountable as they should be.

Starballbunny Sat 15-Feb-14 15:50:31

We converted, no choice, all our local secondaries are academies. Services are still bought off the LEA or ex LEA staff, so I'm not sure what the point was.

School got thrown into SM within months and taken out of SM a year later without any real effect on the pupils education or the schools results. But there was nothing seriously wrong to start with.

Fortunately we are in the back of beyond, no chain has appeared. No attempt at new uniforms, but I'm not sure the parents would stand for it. The sort of parents who care about that kind of rubbish try for the grammar.

Swanhildapirouetting Sat 15-Feb-14 17:31:26

Very interesting.

Thank you. I will read all the links. Dd is in an academy and dss in LA controlled comprehensive, apparently the last in borough not to become an academy. They do not want to become an academy, and they are Outstanding. This was mentioned in HT speech in passing and I just wondered what the backstory was, why it is that they don't want to be an academy, when everyone else in the borough obviously does, and what sort of pressure is being put on them etc, how it affects funding. HT said money was tight as result of new policy.

kscience Sat 15-Feb-14 20:54:25

I work in an academy, having taught for 10yrs in non academies.

The academy I work for is part of a chain. It was a failing school (less than 10% A-C GCSE) and now is the top of the LA (only academy) in 4 years (68% GCSE). Pupils have longer in lessons (6x1hr) and have a larger proportion of their time in English and Maths lessons. We have MUCH smaller classes for all abilities of pupils. Monitoring of teaching staff is conducted internally and externally on a termly basis, and constant appraisal of pupil progress is carried out.
In a socially deprived area, all FSM pupils (over 50%) get their uniform for free and have 2 meals a day provided (freshly prepared by school chefs, not the hideous stuff I would refuse to eat in other schools in LA).
Pupils also have opportunities for sports and musical activities on a local and national basis that they would not otherwise be able to attend.
Opening an academic 6th form from Sept so giving local pupils more choice.

I was sceptical when offered the position, but can honestly say that the management at this academy believe that they are there to alter their pupils lives and treat each pupil as an individual and try to put in place measures, where in most schools the child would have been pushed out to become someone else's problem.

The biggest problem is that staff are under a huge amount of pressure and expectations are very high. This is great for the pupils, but motivating staff and keeping them motivated long term is a challenge. I have just been the other side of the recruitment process and have been told to turn down candidates that I would have considered when employing in other schools, as they are deemed to be "only satisfactory".

IMO as with most schools they are only as good as the management. But being in a LA that has been deemed as failing for 10years, this is the only way to get the improvement that the kids deserve.

BlueEyeshadow Sat 15-Feb-14 21:30:25

Hi swan - sorry this got long! Feel free to PM me for any more details as I don't want to clutter up your entire thread...

Our school (primary) is currently trying to fight off forced academisation. The dogma coming out of the DfE is that the extra "freedoms" an academy has will magically transform any school, so if a school goes into special measures there is an "expectation" that it will become a sponsored academy.

The issue is, that the school is then effectively handed over lock, stock and barrel to the sponsor - which may be another local school (which has to be an outstanding academy itself) or a chain run by one of Gove's chums (eg Theo Agnew, tipped to take over Ofsted). There is currently no way for an academy to opt back in to local authority control as the school and its grounds are given over to the sponsor for 125 years. If it doesn't work - and there's no evidence that becoming an academy will raise standards - you're then stuck with it or face being transferred to yet another sponsor and so on. Some individual sponsors may be OK - the one they're trying to palm us off onto doesn't seem too bad on the face of it - but it's a massive leap into the unknown for no good reason. Other sponsors are anything but OK. They don't have to employ qualified teachers, don't have to teach the national curriculum, don't have to meet the same nutritional standards in school meals or offer free school meals, don't have to provide services for SEN children and so on.

There are also massive issues around the politicisation of Ofsted - if a school goes into special measures, this is immediately followed up by a visit from a DfE academy broker, who can be paid up to £1000 per day, whose job is to bully a school and its governors into applying to the Sec of State to make an academy order. If the governors resist - as they did at our school, after deciding on the basis of the evidence that becoming an academy wasn't right for us - they can be removed and replaced with something called an Interim Executive Board. IEBs were originally intended only for use if the governors were corrupt or incompetent, but are now being used as a tool for the DfE to get its own way and force schools into academisation. There is some very good information about all this here.

The behaviour of the DfE and the County Council in all this has been highly dubious, and we put in an FOI request to find out what's going on behind the scenes, which has been turned down flat - clearly somebody has something to hide. To make matters worse, the IEB have now applied for an academy order AFTER the school came out of special measures - something they have no authority to do - so we are looking at expensive and time-consuming legal action to get them and the DfE to obey the law...

The whole process is also a massive distraction from actually getting on with improving the school, something that even Ofsted have recognised. When it's being done by brute force it is also anti-democratic and damaging.

More links:

On bullying brokers

The DfE's misuse of statistics

A can of worms - a blog on the legal side which has a mass of information

ravenAK Sat 15-Feb-14 21:38:55

My experience is that nothing's changed, except that SLG prefix all more-than-usually ridiculously unreasonable or pointless demands with the magic words 'Now we're an Academy, we can...'

There was talk of extra funding. No one's seen it. Mind you, the Head's got a new car.

TalkinPeace Sat 15-Feb-14 21:49:37

or the head becomes the "executive head" and a deputy becomes the "academic head" and they both award themselves £20k pay rises while hiring NQTs to balance the books

GrumpyCat Sat 15-Feb-14 22:33:02

BlueEyeshadow - good luck with your fight.

From experence sponsored academy chains are about one thing and one thing only: money. It is a complete misconception that a school will have more money once they convert to an academy. It is more likely they will have less say in how to use the limited funds they have once the chain has taken their slice as the chain will dictate what services are essential at the schools cost.

I have yet to meet anyone in real life who can hand on heart speak positively about their experience of being forced down the academy route.

And this is only going to get worse with increased privatisation of academy chain schools in the pipeline for this year. This will rip out the heart and soul of every school sad

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