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Please explain to me the benefits/drawbacks of becoming an academy?

(58 Posts)
TheYuleLogLady Wed 01-Dec-10 16:45:53

apart from the extra cash? any why do academies get extra cash anyway?


Kez100 Wed 01-Dec-10 17:15:04

Keeping it simple (because I don't know in detail myself) they get extra cash because they will not get any help from the LA which they get at the moment included. So, they will have to buy in certain services - like payroll calculation etc I expect they will be able to buy it from the LA if they want, but they won't have to.

After paying out for all these extras they will then be able to spend what they save from this extra however they wish.

I also think they will be run more like companies too - so there will be a board rather than governing body.

animula Wed 01-Dec-10 17:50:56

Suspect big saving will be for schools that don't have a school intake that requires a lot of non-academic support. I think that the LA reserves a sum to pay for a pool of services, that schools then access.

Obviously, if you are a school that "takes less out" of that pool than currently "puts in" (or has reserved, on your behalf, by the LA) you'll make a profit when you get your whole budget, to allocate yourself.

Obviously, the schools that "take more out" are going to be a bit stuffed.

Personally, I don't think it's very fair. But there you go.

Minx179 Wed 01-Dec-10 17:52:58

I believe they can pay teachers less than they would get in state sector.

I think teachers can be required to take on more extra curricular/curricular responsibility, forego PPA time etc in Academies than State. Not a teacher so don't take as gospel.

SEN rules/reg's more complicated in Academies.

Can set their own curriculum(s) to some extent.

Complaints from parents are dealt with differently and you are more curtailed than in the State sector.

The Academies Bill - sets out differences, whether you think they are good/bad will depend on your political/educational opinions I suppose /001/2011001.pdf

Lots of articles re academies on the TES website.

There is also a website called 'Say no to Academies' or similar if you google it.

prh47bridge Wed 01-Dec-10 18:08:18

Regarding funding, it isn't quite as simple as saying they won't get any help from the LA.

The LA receive money from the government to fund schools in their area. The LA deducts some of this to provide central services, regardless of whether or not the schools actually want these services or feel they are getting value for money from the LA.

Academies are funded direct from the government. The school gets more funding but doesn't get some of the services from the LA that normal schools do. However, the LA still receives funding for some central services including educational psychiatric services and SEN assessments. The LA is free to offer other services to academies in return for a fee. If the academy wants the service and feels the price is reasonable it can pay.

Academies can set their own pay rates, so they can pay teachers more or less than they would get in LA schools. They also have more freedom regarding the curriculum.

Academies set their own admission criteria, although the rules are fairly restrictive in terms of what they can actually do - they cannot, for example, become selective schools unless they are already selective prior to conversion.

The new academies are largely the same as the existing ones created under the last government but they no longer need an external sponsor.

admission Wed 01-Dec-10 20:11:52

Another little gem in terms of funding is that academy schools have to pay VAT on purchases that are not staffing, which maintained schools do not generally.
So actually the financial advantages are not as good as they might first think. Part fo the extra funding si to cover this. When you then add in the fact that the DfE knows that they are double funding in certain bits of funding that academies get and this could be sorted out next April, I would have not suspect that they will be any better off.

As a school we will not be doing anything until we access the effects of the cuts to our funding next April and we are far more confident that we know what the funding is going to be a bit further down the road.

ClenchedBottom Wed 01-Dec-10 20:16:19

Prh47 - do you mean Educational Psychologists? LAs still have to provide the statutory elements of EP work (ie assessments around statementing), but other SEN assessments will not be ringfenced by whatever is left of the LAs, neither will support I suspect.

prh47bridge Wed 01-Dec-10 20:51:15

Yes, I meant Educational Psychologists - sorry. Looking at SEN specifically, the LA retains funding for SEN administration, assessment and coordination, transport for SEN pupils and monitoring of SEN provision. It also retains funding for parent partnership, guidance and information in connection with SEN. The LA pays the academy for provision for SEN pupils with individually assigned resources where this is required.

As Admission says, academies generally cannot reclaim VAT on expenditure. They receive a VAT grant to cover this which is supposed to ensure they have broadly equivalent purchasing power. I don't know enough about how the VAT grant is calculated to be able to say whether or not it actually achieves that aim.

Talkinpeace Wed 01-Dec-10 22:43:44

Most LEA schools self insure - ie they do not pay for insurance on the basis that they are so huge they can cover most things
an academy would be daft to do that
cost will be upwards of £50k a year for a secondary

my big bugbear with academies is that they are unaccountable
fewer parent governors
no lea control
and yet all the money comes from the parents taxes
but unlike a feepaying, parents cannot usually vote with their feet

DD's school were offered it over the summer and the governors voted decisively not to, as did all the other schools around here.... go figure

TheYuleLogLady Wed 01-Dec-10 23:12:05

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. thanks.

got consultation meeting next week. will be interesting.

prh47bridge Wed 01-Dec-10 23:47:03

Why do you say the new academies will have fewer parent governors? There is nothing that says they have to. They are required to have a minimum of 2 parent governors but no maximum is laid down. It is perfectly possible for an academy to have more parent governors than it had before converting to academy status. Indeed, it can have the whole lot as parent governors if it wants.

The evidence of the existing academies is that many (most?) have improved academic standards and are now producing significantly better results than they were as LA schools. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying everything in the garden is rosy. There are certainly some concerns. My personal stance on this policy is one of wait and see. It looks interesting and I hope it delivers what the government thinks it will in terms of improved education, particularly for the disadvantaged (and I note that this was Tony Blair's policy originally for the same reasons), but I want to see how it works out in practise. I do, however, think it is important to correct some of the misconceptions that crop up here from time to time.

I would agree that an important aspect of the academy/free schools policy is that we need to get to the point where parents can vote with their feet so that schools have to deliver what parents want. That doesn't mean all schools will be the same - different parents want different things. But I would like to see real parental choice.

OP - if you want more information from the government's point of view, there is a set of FAQs on the Department of Education's websitehere.

thetasigmamum Thu 02-Dec-10 09:48:51

My DD1s school becomes an academy as of 1 January. There wasn't a proper consultation, they asked for emails if you had any issues I sent them a long one explaining why I thought it was a bad idea and in particular pointing to the national association of grammar schools' advice for grammars not to make the change. My email was comoketely ignored, they later sent round a communication saying there had been no opposition and it was happening. this week, we all got an email telling us that as from 1 Jan the assisted purchase scheme for musical instruments is dead for us. Even though they will get a slush fund to compensate for the VAT anomalies of turning into an academy they aren't going to be using it to help parents purchase musical instruments (ie they aren't going to use it for what it is actually for, since the loss of the assisted our chase scheme is ine of the anomalies the slush fund is supposed to correct). I'm furious - I wasn't planning on buying a new instrument for my daughter this year but I was planning on buying one next year. But its not just that - its the message it sends. The first thing the school is doing is using its academy status independence to subvert proper government policy which promotes the arts. I bet it wont be disadvantaging sport in any way.

thetasigmamum Thu 02-Dec-10 09:49:28

Sorry, I see loads of typos there - mixture of bad iPad typing and autocorrect!

Minx179 Thu 02-Dec-10 18:45:12

One of our local primaries became an academy on the 1st September.

From what I gather from the parent I spoke to, there wasn't a great deal of consultation, they weren't given the pros and cons; just the pros.

Though it was the same when the two secondary schools in town federated. The decision was made before the first consultation. But they can at least say they went through due process.

deaddei Fri 03-Dec-10 13:08:37

Both the Tiffin Schools are beconing academies.

cory Fri 03-Dec-10 14:06:49

When our local secondary became an academy, there was massive local opposition- which was ignored. Local parents and politicians wanted the running of the school to be placed in the hands of a local consortium, but the council insisted on it being given to a large international religious sect. It is well known that one of the councillors had close affiliations to the afore-mentioned sect. I am not saying that this normally happens, merely that the academy set-up meant that it could happen.

Parents do try to vote with their feet- I have been told that there is not a single child in the current Year 6 of the same catchment primary school who has got the academdy as his first choice. The problem is that since the school became an academy all the other local schools have become massively oversubscribed and you simply can't get in if you are not in catchment.

Voting with your feet is no good if the other schools won't have you.

I hope this is not indicative of how the academy scheme usually works.

Talkinpeace Fri 03-Dec-10 17:36:52

Cory, yup, it is.

My catchment school (which was known as yob central before) was merged into an academy year before last.
Their intake should be 180. This september it was around 70 - not being an LEA school they do not have to do a dfe school profile confirming the numbers. Their new building is going ahead - for a capacity of 900. By the time its finished, the school will be at around the 400 mark on roll.

And the impact? - Every primary that does not feed into it is chocca. Its feeders are half empty. The secondaries all around had their largest ever intake year. DD's school took an extra 20 kids into year 7.

The head of the academy is a very nice man. He has God on his side but not reality. I chatted to him at length but made it very clear that I would rather HE than send my kids to his school. And I am NOT the HE type!

prh47bridge Fri 03-Dec-10 23:54:41

The new academies will not generally have any outside sponsors, unlike the existing academies which had to have a sponsor. The LA does not have any power to force the new academies into the hands of any particular outside sponsor, so what happened at Cory's local secondary should not happen with any new academies.

cory Sat 04-Dec-10 08:32:28

That sounds like good news. I am very uncomfortable about the sponsor thing.

Another thing that has been disastrous about our academy has been its tendency to exclude pupils at the slightest sign of trouble. Coupled with the fact that they have very poor SEN provision this is a major problem. Can you reassure me on this point also, prh? Will the new academies have to actually deal with SN, rather than just excluding the child on the spectrum who has a meltdown?

happilyconfused Sat 04-Dec-10 21:33:29

Yeh - great for Tiffins as they maybe be able to take in some fee paying kids as well as freebies. Most schools will not be able to do that. It will create sink schools as the the kids on the exclusion carousels will have fewer places to go. The redrawing of catchment areas to avoid difficult areas will be hard to prevent in the long term as authorities will be dealing with private companies.

I think that the teacher contracts also change. I think they are kicked out of the TPS and have to enter a new scheme. I was told that the largest saving will be linked to staff salaries.

Another problem is that schools have to fund their own buidling projects and repairs.

prh47bridge Sun 05-Dec-10 00:46:18

Cory - I wish I could reassure you on that but realistically I don't think I can at the moment. This is one of the areas that needs to be improved. There is certainly a concern that some academies have been excluding pupils illegally. The Education Department say they are working on it but this really needs to be sorted out. There are conflicting objectives here - on the one hand the government want to make it easier for teachers to discipline unruly pupils, on the other hand they need to ensure that academies aren't misusing exclusions. Regarding SEN specifically, the LA remains responsible for ensuring that the services required by individual pupils are delivered, regardless of whether the pupil is at an LA school or an academy.

Happilyconfused - So many misconceptions in a single post...

Academies will not be able to take in fee paying children.

Academies have to take in their fair share of excluded children. The LA can direct them to admit excluded children if necessary.

Academies are still answerable to the local admissions forum, the Schools Adjudicator and the LGO. They are also subject to the Admissions Code and the relevant legislation. They cannot redraw catchment areas in the way you suggest.

Teachers are not kicked out of the TPS. Any teachers employed by the academy are automatically members of the TPS unless the teacher concerned chooses to opt out.

Academies are free to set teacher's pay. That means they can set rates that are higher or lower than those in LA schools. If they set them too low they will, of course, struggle to attract and retain staff.

Academies do not have to fund their own building projects - at least, no more than any other school. As for any other school they can apply to the government for capital funding. Academies will receive the money which previously went to the LA for matters such as repair and maintenance of kitchens.

cory Sun 05-Dec-10 09:35:30

"Academies are free to set teacher's pay. That means they can set rates that are higher or lower than those in LA schools. If they set them too low they will, of course, struggle to attract and retain staff."

And what then happens to the pupils? Our academy lost 29 (!) staff within the first few weeks- not a matter of pay but of dissatisfaction with the chaotic organisation. This didn't actually mean that the pupils were in a position to vote with their feet- they had to stay at this teetering understaffed school whether they liked it or not, because all the other schools were full. Teachers can choose whether to move elsewhere or even whether to choose a new profession, teenagers cannot choose whether to go to school or not.

cory Sun 05-Dec-10 09:36:18

re exclusions: What happened to our academy was that they were found to exclude as many children as the entire rest of the (fairly large) city together! Of course I don't know the individual case histories, but I do know that their SN provision and their willingness to even think about SN was pretty non-existent (having interviewed them myself about my own SN dd): they spouted plenty of Christian sentiment and had no constructive suggestions about anything.

Talkinpeace Sun 05-Dec-10 15:58:19

are you on the east side of snotterton?

cory Sun 05-Dec-10 16:16:07

where's snotterton, talkinpeace?

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