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Academies- anyone know much about them?

(177 Posts)
EnglishRose1320 Mon 04-Jan-16 22:40:45

Just have a load of questions about academies basically, how much do they change schools? I know they vary a fair amount but feel a bit in the dark about them and seeing as by 2020 in at least the county I am in we will no longer have an LEA and only have academies I feel I ought to wise up on them. What experiences have people had of them so far both as staff and as parents, I'm looking at it from both view points. Do people think they are a good idea or Not? Sorry bit rambly but basically any info and thoughts appreciated.

EnglishRose1320 Mon 04-Jan-16 23:47:05

I feel quite nervous about our education system effectively being privatised without being really told upfront what's happening.

mummytime Tue 05-Jan-16 01:47:02

My DC's school is an academy, it has changed little. It has freed up budgets a bit. The schools in my area are also working in partnership which makes it almost like a mini LA, although run by schools not elected officials.

TeenAndTween Tue 05-Jan-16 14:00:35

DD's secondary chose to convert. As a parent I noticed no changes.

I think 'free schools' are much more of an issue tbh.

gallicgirl Tue 05-Jan-16 14:07:46

My friend used to work for a flagship academy. The principal/CEO managed to take it from outstanding to requires improvement in a few short years. He changed the governors to yes men then jumped ship with a golden handshake. There are rumours of a £26 million blackhole in the reserves.
I would question why any company wants to be involved in education other than to make a profit. I know they're set up as charities and trusts usually but the finances seem less than transparent.

EnglishRose1320 Tue 05-Jan-16 16:14:39

Glad to hear it's not having a negative impact everywhere. Gallicgirl those are some of my concerns, a business that has nothing to do with education is surely only looking at it in terms of investment and not putting pupils first.
Dies anyone who has experience of working for an academy know if how much they can make you work across all the schools.

prh47bridge Wed 06-Jan-16 23:31:58

a business that has nothing to do with education is surely only looking at it in terms of investment and not putting pupils first

An academy is not run by a business. All academies are run by charities. In a few cases the charity is associated with a business but in the majority of cases it is not.

doitanyways Wed 06-Jan-16 23:33:06

Ultimately, all schools will be academies. Many change not at all. Play it by ear, is my advice.

gallicgirl Wed 06-Jan-16 23:57:26

I suspect a lot are charities in name only, much like independent schools are charities for tax purposes.

Charities usually are born out of a gap in the market, as it were. Fulfilling a need not provided by the state. The state does a good job of providing schools for the most part. Sure, more schools are needed in places and some are poor, but why force schools that perform adequately to become academies? Why limit local government's ability to create school places? Why allow academies to operate under different rules?

mummytime Thu 07-Jan-16 06:21:32

Most of the Charities are Charities in the real meaning of the word. There is Harris which is run by a Carpet millionaire's philanthropy, if he wanted to make more money floor coverings would see a much better return. Or Oasis which is a Christian Charity which has long experience of working in the inner cities and deprived communities. And then a lot of Academies are part of local consortia, based on solving local needs (so a great school or two helping a few struggling ones).

Of course if you believe like Richard Dawkins that altruism doesn't exist...

And I'm not saying it is the best or even most efficient model. But I do believe that most people in education are doing the best they can for the students.

Asskicker Thu 07-Jan-16 07:15:38

I have had experience of two academies.

The first was a primary and went down hill. They became so obsessed with their outstanding status, the kids came last. Bullying was never acknowledged as bullying it was 'almost bullying' or 'could lead to bullying'.

They denied racist bullying had taken place even though many parents had witnessed it at sports day.

Bad behaviour was ignored and as a result the education standards went down. We removed dd and put her in another school. Soon after the Head Teacher was sacked after many complaints.

Dd now goes to a secondary academy, which is fantastic. I can't see any major difference between it and a normal secondary except there is much more in way of extra curricular stuff and it has excellent facilities.

prh47bridge Thu 07-Jan-16 08:14:00

why force schools that perform adequately to become academies

Schools performing adequately are not being forced to become academies. Currently only schools rated inadequate are being forced to convert. There are suggestions that schools rated as requiring improvement will be forced but that isn't happening at the moment. The argument in favour of forcing these schools to convert is that many of them are coasting rather than striving to become good or outstanding. I'm not sure I agree with this argument.

Why limit local government's ability to create school places

LAs can still create additional places at existing schools. They can also identify the need for a new school, provide the site and meet the associated capital and pre/post opening costs. However the presumption is that the school will be a free school so the LA must seek proposals from bodies interested in establishing the new school. So LAs can still create school places, they just can't run the resulting school unless no-one else is willing to do so.

Why allow academies to operate under different rules

There is extensive evidence from around the world that giving schools the freedoms that come with academy status results in improved performance overall (although, of course, it is not a silver bullet - some schools will still fail). Some of those freedoms are incompatible with LA-controlled status. However, some of those freedoms could be extended to LA-controlled schools and I cannot understand why this has not happened.

roundaboutthetown Thu 07-Jan-16 09:10:01

It's all political ideology. Schools can be outstanding under LA control and academy status. If you're good at running a school, you're good at running a school. "Evidence" from elsewhere is contradictory. There is absolutely no overwhelming case for academy schools being a better model and only a snake oil salesman would claim otherwise. Either a school is well run or it isn't...

minifingerz Thu 07-Jan-16 11:42:46

I took my dd out of a Harris academy because I didn't like the ethos of the school, she was struggling and none of the teachers seemed to stay long enough to give a shit.

You could smell the fear and sweat of the teaching staff in the air.

In retrospect it was the best decision I could have made: had she stayed there she would have been excluded by year 9 and would have ended up in a very grim pupil referral unit. As it was she went to a community school with fantastic pastoral care where they managed to stop her dropping out of education or going even further off the rails in the years that followed.

I would only send my child to this very successful academy chain if they were high achieving, hard working and compliant as it seems to have no room or interest in children who are struggling or children with SN. I have no idea how they get the results they do other than by excluding and sidelining under-achieving kids

EnglishRose1320 Thu 07-Jan-16 16:23:05

Mini- that is one of my concerns and something that I have seen happening, to improve results they simply exclude the children with challenging behaviour.

Prh47- I know of a school that is currently ranked good by ofsted that has just been forced to join an academy, plus as I said our local Lea won't exist after 2020 so one way or another all schools will have to have joined an academy.

I know some academies are doing quite well, I'm just not convmced it's a model we should be rolling out everywhere. Even if a business isn't doing it for money I doubt they are doing it out of just kindness. They will want their business to look good as a result, what happens if a business decides to give up running an acdemy, can they do that?

roundaboutthetown Thu 07-Jan-16 17:04:54

I think some academy chains give considerably less freedom to good headteachers than local authorities ever did. I personally find the notion of academising all schools loathsome.

prh47bridge Thu 07-Jan-16 18:46:56

I know of a school that is currently ranked good by ofsted that has just been forced to join an academy

Neither the government nor the LA has any powers to force a school with an Ofsted rating of "good" to convert. If you name the school I will be happy to look into it and find out what happened.

Even if a business isn't doing it for money I doubt they are doing it out of just kindness

I repeat, it is not a business. Every academy is run by a charity. In a few cases the charity is associated with a business. In the overwhelming majority of cases it is not. The charity itself only operates the school (or schools if it is a chain). There is nothing else to "look good".

what happens if a business decides to give up running an academy

If the charity decides it doesn't want to continue running the school it must give 7 years notice to terminate the agreement. The agreement can be terminated more rapidly of the academy trust and the Secretary of State agree the school is no longer financially viable. The Secretary of State can also terminate the agreement if the school is failing or for various other reasons. On termination any public assets (land, buildings, etc.) that have been passed to the academy revert to public ownership. If a school is still required the Secretary of State would normally look for another academy trust willing to take it on.

prh47bridge Thu 07-Jan-16 18:48:40

that is one of my concerns and something that I have seen happening, to improve results they simply exclude the children with challenging behaviour

This goes on at both LA-controlled schools and academies. It should not happen.

PettsWoodParadise Thu 07-Jan-16 23:06:10

in my area most schools are now academies. Not much has changed. They seem to have more admin staff as they have to do some functions the LEA may have done in the past including admissions etc. Schools also seem to be crying out for Governors which seems a thankless job in my mind - no pay - lots of responsibility - childrens and teachers happiness and futures at stake. I doff my hat in full respect to any School Governors out there. Another trend I've seen and this may not be specific to academies is the ever larger 'leadership team' in a school - often a Head and a separate Director of Learning, perhaps several deputies all increasingly with Board type names like Director or Chief.

EnglishRose1320 Fri 08-Jan-16 00:59:17

Prh47 thanks but due to the stage the school is currently at I can't name it, it does have good and it is being forced though, I know some of the reasons but may give the school away if I state them.

prh47bridge Fri 08-Jan-16 07:37:26

Feel free to PM me the name of the school.

Under the Academies Act 2010 the Secretary of State can only make an Academy Order on application by the school's governing body or if the school is eligible for intervention under Part 4 of the Education and Inspections Act 1996. A school is eligible for intervention if:

- the LA has given it a warning notice due to unacceptably low standards, or a breakdown in the way the school is managed or governed, or the safety of pupils or staff is threatened, or

- Ofsted has rated the school inadequate, or

- the school has been placed into special measures

If a school has a rating of good it clearly is not inadequate nor is it in special measures. So unless major problems have emerged with the school since inspection resulting in the LA serving a warning notice the Secretary of State can only issue an Academy Order if the governors apply for conversion.

Note that opposition from teachers or parents does not mean a school is being forced. It is only being forced to convert if the governors oppose conversion but it is going ahead anyway.

roundaboutthetown Fri 08-Jan-16 08:09:31

There are tonnes of profit-making businesses circling around state schools these days. What LAs used to provide has to be provided by someone else and the fewer LA schools there are, the less the LA offers, the more staff it makes redundant and the more private enterprises set up trying to flog schools services of hugely variable quality at often quite high cost. People who go into education because they want to teach now have to have highly honed business skills and excellent knowledge of relevant legislation. Since business people, lawyers and educators are not always compatible, that results in a lot of wasted money, or a lot of money spent on employing new people with those skills who may or may not save the school any money. Then, of course, with some academy chains, business people and others start to think they also know more about education than the educators, and guess who controls the purse strings and can thus get what they want?

prh47bridge Fri 08-Jan-16 08:16:59

There are tonnes of profit-making businesses circling around state schools these days

There always have been. Academisation has made people more aware of this.

the fewer LA schools there are, the less the LA offers

Some LAs are doing very well out of offering their services to academies. Others, as you say, are cutting back and only offering the minimum required by law.

roundaboutthetown Fri 08-Jan-16 09:11:39

Of course there always have been. Not half so many as now, though, and not offering half so much, given that all LAs have been cutting back on staff and on what they offer. Government would rather private providers offer the services than publicly funded LAs and has ensured local government is funded accordingly. LAs can't compete with businesses that are able to operate at a loss until they have driven out the competition, because they are using taxpayers' money, so they can't compete in an open market on a level playing field. They don't even have enough staff to find sensible providers to contract out to. It's political ideology that drives it all and however it's done results in huge waste and winners and losers. In my view, however, the private enterprise model increases inequality and it does not raise average standards, so it is therefore not an improvement, just part of a political game.

Emochild Fri 08-Jan-16 09:23:28

My dd is at an outstanding academy -or rather she should be but she had a breakdown last year aged 13 due to the bullying children and staff and high pressure environment

I have been denied access to the senco as dd didn't have a formal diagnosis through Camhs -we were waiting for the appointment

Dd has now been diagnosed with ASD and severe anxiety -and still the senco has not returned a single call -but her absence is authorised so that's ok, they won't seek to prosecute!!!!

In yr 7 she was in receipt of pupil premium because I was made redundant -she received no benefit from this at all
If your child is in receipt of pp you have to apply to the finance office to ask them for things like equipment for art and tech lessons or curriculum based school trips

So if you don't want to send begging letters in every few weeks your child doesn't get it -god knows what they spend it on

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