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Our DDs 'outstanding' primary is considering becoming an academy

(23 Posts)
Humphreythehamster Wed 29-Jun-11 10:24:34

Is this good? They have sent home a consultation paper but even though I'm reasonably intelligent I can't see from that what practical differences it will make. The main thing I am concerned about is that it is a VERY middle class cliquey school and I would hate for a change in status to make it more so. Are academies allowed to chAnge admissions procedures?

Anyone got any practical information?

IndigoBell Wed 29-Jun-11 10:31:39

Academies are not allowed to change admissions procedures.

There will probably be a good reason for it which they can't really share with you.

Most schools are changing to academies either because everyone else is and the govt wants them to and they feel they have no choice.

Or because they will be financially better off, because they won't pay for LEA services they don't use (or can get cheaper elsewhere). ( Pay roll, Occupational health and safety, caterers advice, MFL (modern foreign language) advisors, SRE (sex & relationship education ) advisors, training courses. The list is endless.

But it makes very little practical difference. The main thing that makes a diff to a school is the HT - and she won't be changing.

mankyscotslass Wed 29-Jun-11 10:31:40

Bumping for you as our "outstanding" primary has also just decided to go down this route, the governors voted last month.

rabbitstew Wed 29-Jun-11 12:13:34

Cutting and pasting my views on academies from a thread on "Politics."...

"Well, I find it interesting that the biggest apparent gripe people have is that state education is currently a big postcode lottery, yet I don't see how academy schools are going to change this one iota. They could, of course, make this a million times worse, as good and outstanding schools that are currently the focus for conversion to academy status, become academies and the less good schools in areas where the local population are less inspired by the thought of losing LA control (and protection) do not. And I worry that once the LA has lost a few schools from its "books," it's bulk purchasing power will be reduced and its standard of service for those schools left will be reduced as it takes advantage of its reduced responsiblities and finances to effect redundancies and cost cutting measures.

I also worry that when the heads of the outstanding and good schools that have converted to academy status move on/lose their oomph as they get older, the schools may find their popularity waning, lose pupil numbers and thus funding and suddenly realise that they are now responsible for paying redundancy costs, deciding staff pay and conditions,dealing with legal messes etc, and the head and governors no longer have any safety net to fall back on. Not an enticing prospect for unpaid school governors, any potential new head thinking of taking over a failing academy and any teachers considering whether or not to work at the school, and not something you can be confident will never happen, given the undersupply of head teachers of all calibres.

I also worry that academy schools will effectively be replicating a lot of the work currently done by the LA that is not a school's main business - eg sorting out payroll and pensions, legal services, electricity and other service suppliers, buildings maintenance, insurances etc. It will take up an awful lot of time to look into all of this and find the best, most cost-effective providers, etc, and bulk purchasing power will be lost, unless all the schools in the area work together on it and act like a mini-LA (I can already see the arguments over who's not pulling their weight or contributing enough), or unless the school just buys these services from the LA, assuming they will be widely offered by the LA any more (somehow I doubt it), once half the schools in the area have become academies.

I also worry that the academy concept and the apparent joy of competition in the schools sector is failing to recognise that schools are not any old business. You can't really have schools constantly failing and being swallowed up by other schools that become ever more big and powerful when you are to a large extent constrained by physical space and location, school populations that require some kind of consistency and certainty in provision, and can't really sack half the staff and replace them with a call centre in India."

sarahfreck Wed 29-Jun-11 16:52:23

I know of an outstanding primary school that is seeking to become an academy. The reasons are mainly to do with a poor level of service from the LA. For example, when having an extension to the building, the LA wanted them to accept a style and site that really wasn't suitable, whereas the school wanted something different that was better fit for purpose and not really more expensive. The governors had to really fight to win that one. Also as an LA school they automatically have to pay for services they don't actually use - eg borrowing packs of books for various national curriculum topics. The LA never had the packs available that the school needed, so they bought their own, but still at present have to pay into the LA scheme!
In these circumstances I totally understand and support the desire to become an academy.

IndigoBell Wed 29-Jun-11 16:56:08

Sarah - you are absolutely right.

The reason for becoming an academy can often be down to bad service from the LA - but that may not be something the school feel comfortable sharing with the general public.

frostymomma Wed 29-Jun-11 17:05:44

Our outstanding primary has also recently been approved to become an academy. Not sure if it is a good thing or not - probably a bit of both. From what I understand, the school will receive the 10% that is currently deducted from the money allocated from the government to provide LA services, and will be able to spend how the head/governors see fit. What I don't get is whether there is certaintly that any funding (or how much) will be given in future years. Is it a possibility that the government may radically cut the funding to academies, which would leave them having to generate money? How far might it go?

Also, if the head decides to leave after a few years, who would be responsible for recruiting a replacement? Would it be the school governors or the LA? This too could have positives and negatives.

I also thought that academies could set their own admissions criteria, alter their PAN, and decide the outcomes of their own appeals - that seems to be one of the main reasons for our school going down this route.

sarahfreck Wed 29-Jun-11 17:07:37

AS far as I know, governors always interview and appoint headteachers anyway even in LA schools ( though they will have a LA appointed governor)

frostymomma Wed 29-Jun-11 17:09:02

Ah ha! Thanks for clarifying.

IndigoBell Wed 29-Jun-11 17:09:23

An academy can set their own PAN, but not their own admission criteria. (This can be a very big reason to change to an academy - it stops the LA from being able to expand the school.)

In a maintained school the governors select a new HT not the LA. So this will stay the same.

Nobody knows what the govt will do with funding in the future - but there's no reason to think that they'd give academies less then maintained schools.

rabbitstew Wed 29-Jun-11 18:08:46

Well, I think the Government would like all schools to go that way and become academies - I think the idea is strikingly similar to their ideas for the NHS and getting rid of PCTs. I'm sure in the near future becoming an academy could be advantageous to the outstanding schools that are already doing better than all the other schools around them, anyway (and if all schools eventually become academies, a few years advantage in terms of experience of being an academy would be another advantage). It won't help the non-outstanding schools to get any better, though - is far more likely to be detrimental to them - so in terms of social divisiveness and middle class "cliqueyness", I'm sure it will make the situation worse, not better. But hey, who cares?...

IndigoBell Wed 29-Jun-11 18:29:53

But RabbitStew, there is no relationship between being an outstanding school and being a middle class school.

If good schools stay good or get even better surely this is a good thing.

Why does one school getting better imply another school is getting worse?

hockeyforjockeys Wed 29-Jun-11 18:39:48

IndigoBell unfortunately there is. There is strong evidence that Ofsted ratings link directly to a school's SATS scores. We cannot get an outstanding as our SATS results are only at the national average (giving us a satisfactory in the acheivement category), despite the fact that we have the highest value score added in the borough. If you have a school with a stable population, whose parents are well-educated, native English speakers who know how to take an active role (as well as probably having a lower number of SEN pupils), then I cannot see how you would fail to get lower results than a school with a high pupil turnover (due to socio-economic reasons, not the satisfaction with the school), many children whose families speak little English, are illiterate or poorly educated in their own language (including English speakers), are living in overcrowed and poor housing and a higher number of SEN pupils.

houseofboys Wed 29-Jun-11 18:48:01

re admissions, academies do not have to take pupils who have been excluded from other schools. Some may see this an advantage - I think it enhances the criticisms that they will create a two tier system.

rabbitstew Wed 29-Jun-11 18:58:58

IndigoBell, regardless of what social stratum the parents of children at outstanding schools generally come from (I would be interested if this turned out not to be predominantly middle class), the OP wanted to know whether her middle class, cliquey school might become more so as an academy, so clearly in answering her question, I have to have that scenario in mind... she does not have children at an outstanding school in a working class area.

rabbitstew Wed 29-Jun-11 19:03:29

I wonder how many outstanding schools in run down, impoverished areas are applying for academy status?

hockeyforjockeys Wed 29-Jun-11 19:10:21

Acually I know one rabbitstew, but I think that has more to do with the head being one of Govey's favs who is a meglomaniac with an ego the size of France (knew nothing about the school when I went for a tour and hated him within 30 seconds of him opening his mouth).

DontCallMeBaby Wed 29-Jun-11 19:31:23

Actually I can see a middle class cliquey school becoming more so as an academy, as one huge reason for becoming an academy is a big ego-trip for the head. Very dubious about other reasons (well, and that reason, obviously!) Financially, the money isn't great, and it's not reliable - locally at least one secondary has had its academy windfall cut in half, which makes me very VERY glad our primary hasn't gone for it.

rabbitstew Wed 29-Jun-11 20:25:31

IndigoBell - in terms of other schools getting a worse deal, I see allowing outstanding and good schools to become academies as bad for the remaining schools because that means less funding for the LA, which means an excuse for yet more job cuts and a decreased level of service for the schools left under their control. I think some academy schools may well do better than they did under LA control, but in the long run I think just as many will do worse and the rest won't be much different - basically, as I said before, I think it will create more polarisation in the system and even more of a postcode lottery. It will also create one hell of a lot more uncertainty. Competition will always create winners and losers - the more unchecked the competition, the greater the stakes. Scrapping the role of the Local Authority is removing one hell of a lot of checks and balances, even if the checks and balances were off centre and needed readjusting.

IndigoBell Wed 29-Jun-11 21:04:25

You can apply to become an academy if you are either outstanding, or good with outstanding features ( or in partnership with a school with one of those statuses).

Poor SAT results will stop you getting outstanding, but it won't stop you getting good with outstanding features.

So it is totally unfair to say only middle class schools can apply to become academies. And of course many middle class schools aren't good or outstanding. If you get good SATS but everything else is rubbish you don't get good or outstanding.

I don't know which LEA you are in - but our LEA, and many others, have already got rid of almost all the staff. There budgets have already been cut so much that they provide almost nothing to schools anyway.

Schools are not converting to academies for HTs ego. They are converting because LEAs are so bad that they are really left with no choice.

No one is making these decisions lightly. And unless you are actually on the governing body you don't know whey they made the decision. Apart from, that they've done it because they believe it's the best decision.

There are LEAs which are good and where no schools are converting. There are also terrible LEAs where every school is converting. If your school is converting it is probably due to being part of a rubbish LEA which is not providing good value for money.

hockeyforjockeys Wed 29-Jun-11 21:16:07

They can be good with outstanding features (my previous school fell into exactly this category purely because of average SATs results even though it had 70% free school meals and EAL), but officially it is still a good, even if they are a fantastic school. To get a satisfactory rating in acheivement you have to have SATs results at the national average, poor ones will almost certainly rate as inadequate (and yes potentially put you in special measures unless you can show rapid progress in the last few years).

I really wished I shared your belief in the fairness of the system, but having seen two inspections where the inspectors minds have been made up before even entering the building, based purely on the data. I have seen one where the inspector read the data wrongly. The first day before this was pointed out to her all the lessons were graded as 'satisfactory', the next day the same teachers were suddenly 'outstanding'. Don't think it doesn't happen.

rabbitstew Wed 29-Jun-11 22:07:22

I'm sure no-one takes the decision lightly, IndigoBell, and that for the individual schools making the decision it is the right one for the school in question at this moment in time. I'm also sure the Government is going out of its way to manipulate the situation so as to ensure as many schools as possible do end up as academies, regardless of whether that is to the long term good or easily reversible if it turns out to be an utter disaster of a policy.

Humphreythehamster Wed 29-Jun-11 23:08:13

Thanks for all the information, I'm really concerned that this will cause problems with admissions, as I said before, causing more cliqueyness (I do know that's not a word grin ). The head is fantastic, not too much ego there, very ambitious for the school, but doesn't lose sight of the individual children's needs. He only took over as head 2 years ago so I can't see him going anywhere soon. The nearest 4 schools are the same, middle class, either 'good' or 'outstanding' ofsted rated, so I can't see that they would be affected, but obviously there are plenty of other schools in the LA who aren't the same profile. Could they be affected?

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