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your thoughts on the whole academy thing?

(153 Posts)
ArfurBrain Thu 17-Mar-11 17:40:19

My child's secondary has just announced consultation into becoming one.

By my reckoning, this now means all the town's secondaries will be (potentially) academies.
I dare say many of my questions will be answered at the parents' evening. But the whole academy thing appears to be so rushed that I'm sure there are loads of issues which no-one really knows what will happen until they rear their heads, so to speak.

From a social point of view, what implications might this have on the town?
Admissions etc?

What will happen to those academies which have a less afluent parent pool?
SEN services?
I mean if all the schools are no longer in LEA control, whose responsibliy is it to ensure each child gets a school place ?

And as I understand it, once a school has become an academy, it cannot go back to LEA control,
I sort of feel our children are being guinea pigs in a ratheruncontrolled educational experiment.
Would just like to know what MNetters feel.

prh47bridge Thu 17-Mar-11 18:10:43

To provide some answers:

Academies set their own admission criteria. However, their criteria must still conform to the Admissions Code and in all other respects the admissions process will be unchanged. It will still be up to the LA to ensure that every child gets a place.

Those academies which have a less affluent parent pool may receive additional funding. Academies will receive a pupil premium for children who receive free school meals.

SEN provision is complex, but not significantly more so than it is already. The LA retains responsibility for education psychology, SEN administration, SEN assessments and monitoring of SEN provision. Academies receive funding for services for pupils with SEN. Many LA schools also receive this funding - the previous government was pushing LAs to delegate this funding to schools. However, some LAs retain this funding so academies in those areas will see a change.

The LA also retains funding for PRUs and is responsible for excluded pupils. There is, however, a concern that some academies may have been too eager to exclude pupils.

When this government came to power there were already over 200 academies, the first ones having been established in 2002/3. This autumn the figure will go up to over 400. Some academies are achieving impressive results. For example, the percentage of pupils getting five decent GCSE passes in state schools is 23% lower for free school meal children. One of the current groups of academies has narrowed that gap to 3%.

That is not to say there are no concerns. As I have already said, some people believe that academies may have been too eager to exclude pupils. There are also some concerns about how well LAs will monitor SEN provision in academies.

ArfurBrain Thu 17-Mar-11 18:14:04

thanks prh, that's a very comprehensive set of answers.

Any thoughts on any possible implications for a town having 100 per cent secondary academies?

ArfurBrain Thu 17-Mar-11 18:17:23

what about children who have SEN but not statements? Will the academies have any external monitoring to ensure these children get support even if they do not attract specific funding IYKWIM?

One of the secondary schools is being 'adopted' if that is the right word by a Compnay which already runs several other academies in neighbouring counties. How does this work?

TalkinPeace2 Thu 17-Mar-11 18:33:43

as you are more knowledgeable than any media pundit I've heard

What will happen when Oasis Mayfield is put into special measures at its next Ofsted visit early next term (plus or minus half a term) ?

cory Thu 17-Mar-11 19:17:14

was just going to ask same question as talkinpeace

what are the procedures for putting academy in special measures

<waves at talkinpeace>

Arfur's question about SEN/disabled children without statements also really worth thinking about. Our local LEA has pretty well told us that they do not issue statements for children with physical disabilities. And the local academy certainly made it clear that they had given no thought whatsoever to the problem.

noblegiraffe Thu 17-Mar-11 19:47:46

The plan is for all schools to become academies. Towns where all schools are academies will soon be the norm. Loads more schools will apply for and be granted academy status this year in the face of the budget cuts.

It's inevitable.

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 20:09:56

Schools are being offered more money (it may in reality not turn out to be very much but will still be more for those who change because a governing body ought check this as part of the consultation process). They are being offered more curriculum choice and less read tape.

The extra money they get is (currently) only partly being taken from the LEA.

So, in the short term - something the public sector seems to commonly deal in - everyone seems to be a winner, so a large number of new academies has to be on the cards.

Of course, the short term soon ends and no way can the Government carry on paying more for the same. Someone will lose out but by them it will be too late.

I don't have a view presently. If I were a Governor I'd be looking at all the consultation once in - business plan and stakeholder comments (less the purely political ones) and then make my decision.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 17-Mar-11 20:21:54

But what nobody seems to be able to answer for me...

What happens when an Academy gets into trouble?

The LEA cannot step in.
Will it be micromanaged from Whitehall?
Or will children just be utterly left in the lurch?

ArfurBrain Thu 17-Mar-11 20:30:15

yes yes, exactly TP. There is no redress, is there? Who ultimately is accountable?

Giggle78 Thu 17-Mar-11 20:42:13

Hmmm I am agreeing with you - the accountability thing is a real issue.

A school I know is becoming an Academy very soon and I have real fears because it is not very well run at the moment. So why oh why has someone thought that it would be good to take on the running of everything. Or maybe thats it exactly.

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 20:45:45

If they get into trouble I suspect the Government will step in, kick out the governing body (whatever the new name is) and put in their own - then chuck some more money at it. A bit like what happens with special measures schools now but instead of the leadership being re-vamped the body will be as well.

I am only guessing but it would be a question to ask at consultation because you'd expect it to already have been asked by any decent Governor.

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 20:48:32

I'm not sure how a badly run school is becoming academy. Isn't it only available to outstanding schools and good with outstanding feature schools at the moment?

I would imagine if the management was weak then part of the academy process would require it to buddy up with an outstanding school to help it improve that area. That would be a good thing, wouldn't it?

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 20:50:40

Isn't accountability the same as now? Now, it is the Governors - under Academy status, it will be the new Governing Body (probably a different name but likely to be the same people)

Silverstreet Thu 17-Mar-11 20:54:06

As I understand it if an academy is failing then the Secretary of State (or in reality his Head of Academies) has the power to appoint additional governors and require the resignation of the previous governors, in much the same way as an LEA can if a school is put into special measures. If this were to happen, given academies are all about stronger schools working in partnership with weaker schools, I would expect that the first job of the new governors would be to pair up with an outstanding academy in order to help turn the failing one around.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 17-Mar-11 21:27:02

Which is fine, BUT, the first generation of Academies were all FAILING schools beforehand.
And they are not of the opinion that they are answerable to any civil servant.

To be clear, Oasis Mayfield is Cory's catchment school. Its twin, Oasis Lordshill is mine.
These people have God on their side and have so far UTTERLY ignored parents, the LEA, MPs, OFSTED etc

Ofsted do not know what will happen if it goes into special measures and Oasis refuse to make changes.....

cat64 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:04:21

Message withdrawn

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:09:56

What about the business plan? Maybe that was exceptionally good. We can have a say but I don't think we have any power unless we are a Governor.

lilolilmanchester Thu 17-Mar-11 22:14:01

we're in a selective area and one of our ofsted outstanding rated grammars has just gone to academy status - but they already have stringent entrance criteria, whether controlled by them or the LEA. As I understand it, it's been largely a financial decision. Not sure what it means for non-selective areas tho.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:15:31

Currently schools are converting for PURELY financial reasons
But, what happens when it goes pear shaped?

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:20:29

1. I don't believe they are changing purely for financial reasons. I think the curriculum freedom and less red tape is a big lure.

2. What if it doesn't go pear shaped? Why should it go pear shaped anymore than it does now? The secretary of state is still ultimately responsible.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:23:34

have you READ the releases from Gove's team?
He wants to micromanage even more than Bliar and Broon did.

And the point about pear shaped is that you should ensure that systems are in place beforehand.
From what I see there IS NO system in place - hence the flat spin panics about Oasis Mayfield.

prh47bridge Thu 17-Mar-11 22:40:26

It is true that the first generation of academies were failing beforehand. The new academies are different in that respect.

Ofsted have placed academies in special measures before. If the school fails to act and to achieve the targets set by Ofsted it will be closed down.

The funding agreements give the Secretary of State the power to replace the governors or appoint additional governors. These are legally binding agreements. Whatever the academy itself may think, it has no choice. So overall the approach for failing academies is similar to that for other failing schools. And a number of academies have already been in special measures.

Oasis cannot refuse to make changes. If the Secretary of State replaces the governors, the existing governors would cease to have any legal power over the school.

On the other question about SEN pupils who don't have a statement, I have seen some pretty appalling treatment of such pupils by LA controlled schools, sometimes with the connivance of the LA. My overall view is that I see no reason to believe that academies will be any better or any worse than LA schools at dealing with such pupils. In other words, I expect that some will do a brilliant job of making sure such pupils receive proper provision whilst others will ignore the issue or worse.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:42:42

thankyou for your comments
but I do wonder whether it is the job of a secretary of state to decide who should be the governors of individual schools!

Kez100 Thu 17-Mar-11 22:49:21

I agree it appears everything is rushed. That seems to be the case always, whatever party in power. It's like the Bacc and the issue of stats this year. I have never seen an options booklet rewritten so fast!

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