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What's the point of a Free school / Academy being a non-profit charity?

(39 Posts)
EducationQuestions Tue 02-Dec-14 11:20:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EducationQuestions Tue 02-Dec-14 11:39:12

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EducationQuestions Tue 02-Dec-14 11:47:00

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strongandlong Tue 02-Dec-14 12:10:38

This BBC new page BBC news page covers the difference between Free Schools and academies.

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 14:26:01

wikipedia and the dfe website are your friends

prh47bridge Tue 02-Dec-14 18:17:31

A free school is simply an academy that has been set up from scratch as opposed to an existing school that has converted to academy status.

I agree with TalkinPeace that Wikipedia and the DfE website are very helpful. On the original question, some individuals like to act philanthropically (see Bill Gates for an obvious example). This is also true of some businesses - they may want to be seen as good citizens and/or be hoping to get some benefit by being associated with a particular cause. Of course, some businesses may be hoping that one day the political climate will change and people will be willing to accept schools run for a profit.

hobnobsandcoffee Tue 02-Dec-14 21:25:40

OP, as others have said, try Wikipedia on both academies and free schools.

Originally, academy sponsors needed to have deep pockets. They were few in number and their motivation was philanthropic (or narcissistic/evangelical if you're more cynical).

Subsequently the need for financial contribution was dropped. Most sponsors now offer their time and expertise, rather than cash. That has increased the number of sponsors, but their motivations are the same. (There may be some that are speculating on future profit potential, but I suspect not many - there are plenty of lower risk ways of making a profit if that's their only motivation!)

Charities can be sponsors too - not just businesses. It's worth bearing in mind that all maintained schools are reliant on charity - because all school governors are unpaid. Many business people give back to their local communities by becoming unpaid governors at maintained schools, so it isn't a new concept. Turning a school into an academy can mean the governing body have control over the finances, so many convert to academy status willingly, with or without an external sponsor.

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 21:33:14

Include this in your essay

the governance of Academies is a disaster waiting to explode

ravenAK Tue 02-Dec-14 21:41:50

It's a racket intended to transfer publically owned assets into private hands, whilst cutting staffing costs by removing the requirement for teachers to be a) qualified & b) treated in accordance with the national pay & conditions framework.

hobnobsandcoffee Tue 02-Dec-14 21:44:42

In some areas (not all by any means) Local Authority governance is/was a disaster too. Yes, you can vote out a local politician, but not the Education Director that manipulates advises him, or the council officers who have limited expectations of and aspirations for the kids that are so dependent on their supposed expertise.

EducationQuestions Tue 02-Dec-14 23:17:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

straggle Tue 02-Dec-14 23:21:47

Excellent blog by a barrister on academies and free schools here:

Good post by Sir Peter Newsam (former chief education officer of ILEA, director of Institute of Education, Chief Schools Adjudicator, etc.) explaining how academies are a systematic process of privatisation:

prh47bridge Wed 03-Dec-14 00:48:11

It's a racket intended to transfer publically owned assets into private hands

Not true. Where public assets are transferred there are conditions around the transfer which mean the assets will return to public ownership again when they are no longer required for the purposes of running the school. If there was such a racket the Labour party would be shouting it from the rooftops. They aren't because there isn't.

straggle Wed 03-Dec-14 09:31:22

The expense of transferring control of the assets is borne by the taxpayer. That may have contributed to the £1 billion overspend on the programme. The running of the premises can involve payments to private companies, e.g. leasing the premises to clubs, maintenance or IT contracts etc. The NAO found that 43% of trusts paid public money towards the private businesses of directors, trustees and relatives worth c.£71 million. See Guardian report.

straggle Wed 03-Dec-14 09:55:49

Lots of interesting examples of conflicts of interest in this report for parliament:

TalkinPeace Wed 03-Dec-14 13:09:06

If there was such a racket the Labour party would be shouting it from the rooftops.
Don't bet on it.

Labour started the Academy programme and set up some of the stupidest deals including my local one.
The eejit Broon was so busy brown nosing to PFI trypes that he did not think straight.

Gove just wanted to dismantle LEAs

addictedtosugar Wed 03-Dec-14 13:32:32

For us, we currently bus over 1000 kids a day out of town to 3 nearby towns for secondary schooling.
The government has said we can't have another secondary school, or extend the existing one, as overall in the borough, we have sufficient places.
So kids who live next door to each other, and went to primary school with eath other end up in different towns for secondary.
We are getting a free school - ie one built from scratch, to allow the kids to attend school in the (not insignficiantly sized) town they already live in.

Accademies are converted from existing schools.

PausingFlatly Wed 03-Dec-14 13:38:37

A free school doesn't have to be built from scratch does it? So much as started from scratch?

One of the features I remember the govt trumpeting about Free Schools is that all sorts of existing buildings would do to house to them.

PausingFlatly Wed 03-Dec-14 13:39:57

Oh sorry, you just mean your local one is being built.

addictedtosugar Wed 03-Dec-14 17:55:53

Yes, our local free school is currently a field, but any existing space or building could be used.

Academies are always existing schools, imo

straggle Wed 03-Dec-14 19:54:30

The government has said we can't have another secondary school, or extend the existing one

But if you are getting a free school it will be approved by central government. And it might be run by an academy chain.

ArchangelGallic Wed 03-Dec-14 20:02:41

Under current rules, all new schools must be free schools or academies.
This is the reason our LA won't build a new school and is simply trying to enlarge existing schools. They don't want to pay millions to build a school then hand over control to an academy.

As for charitable status, a lot of independent schools have this to keep down costs. 80% mandatory business rates relief for a start and there's probably other tax reliefs connected to charitable status.
Trust me, the academies will be making a profit somewhere, even if it's just handing contracts to their mates for a kick-back.

Pennybe Wed 03-Dec-14 20:49:08

Just because individual academy trusts and free schools, and multi academy trusts running chains are set up as charities / not for profit businesses, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of money to be made.

For example there are many cases coming to light of academies and free schools awarding contracts for services to businesses or individuals connected to the governors / directors.

Academy sponsors don't need to plough their own money into these schools - it's tax payers money that they're using. The Department for Education has thrown billions of pounds of our money at this programme and someone must be making money out of this.

Consultancy fees, rents, rebuilds, etc. Just because it's "at cost" doesn't mean that people aren't being paid good money to do this work. Plus there are many cases of head teachers or principals getting massive pay rises, along with other senior staff, and the creation of new posts such as executive principal.

Then, there is the prospect that one day academy chains will be allowed to run these schools for profit.

Academies and free schools have been promoted as the answer to failing schools and failing local authorities. The data is inconclusive. Yes, many sponsored academies have improved faster than the average maintained school. But, because they were previously failing (hence they've needed a sponsor) they have started from a lower point, so they should improve quickly. Compare converter academies (those that were rated as good or outstanding before they became academies) and they have not improved dramatically and indeed, good and outstanding maintained schools have done just as well.

The selling point for schools to convert to academy stays has been extra money, plus more autonomy. But the extra money may be squeezed out in the future, and, if the academy should end up as part of a chain, the head teacher and local governing body will have far less autonomy than it had as a maintained school.

Sadly, however, most of the main political parties seem to support the academy and free school programme, as does business and much of the national press. It's privatisation by the back door, in my opinion, and the general public are oblivious to what's happening.

prh47bridge Wed 03-Dec-14 22:58:32

Don't bet on it

I haven't previously noticed political parties being shy of criticising other parties for doing exactly the same as they did themselves. In this case if Labour could make the claim they definitely would as it plays to the perception many of the public have of the Conservatives helping their rich friends.

someone must be making money out of this

People make money out of community schools as well. Builders, suppliers of furniture, equipment, text books, etc. don't do it for the good of their health.

straggle Wed 03-Dec-14 23:10:35

many sponsored academies have improved faster than the average maintained school

They have only done this by switching to easier exams and more use of equivalents. NFER has done some research on this. With many equivalents being excluded from 2014 there will be an even bigger drop in progress. Academies are often less flexible, are not as well supported and have less autonomy in a chain than LA maintained schools. See RSA report.

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