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Do Academies Fail and if Yes, How do they Improve?

(26 Posts)
Verbena37 Wed 12-Aug-15 16:48:05

So far, I think I'm right in saying that the reason failing schools, or those that require improvement, and those which have an academy sponsor, are supposed to benefit through ring fenced money and better staff/curriculum management. Is that correct?

If yes, do academies fail? If they do, how is that rectified....considering they are supposed to improve a failing school?

DD's just going up to secondary in year 9 and the school is changing from being in a three tier system to two tier at the same time as becoming a sponsored academy. So far,nth school have only talked of how they'll create new buildings....not how they'll improve on teaching and grades.

admission Wed 12-Aug-15 17:07:54

Some relatively simple, sensible questions but with very complicated answers, which will change from one individual school to another. Sponsored academies will be on a journey from being not good enough to being good enough. Whilst in the past there were financial incentives the reality is that all schools whether academy or otherwise in any admission authority will now be funded using the same annual mechanism. The sponsoring academy or chain of schools will be putting in expertise and management that will hopefully with time improve the school.
There is no magic fix and these things take time (far more than the government would like it to be). It can easily take up to 6 months for the new management to understand the issues in the school and where to concentrate their priority.
Academies have and do fail after being a sponsored academy. The reasons are multi-fold but what normally happens is that the original sponsor is removed and a new sponsor takes over. This is now happening more and more with the time that academies have been in place. Being realistic there will always be a number of schools that are failing for all sorts of reasons but at the end of the day it is the calibre of the senior management of the school to change things around that is the biggest influence in improving a school.
What nobody seems to grasp too well in the education sector is that similar things happen in industry. Businesses fail or start to fail and new management comes in and tries to sort out the mess. There are managers who make a living solely on going into companies and spending 6 months plus making all the difficult and unpopular decisions to get the business back on an improving direction. The same applies to schools.

Verbena37 Wed 12-Aug-15 17:15:55

Thank Admission. Doesn't sound overly positive then does it?
All the gumpf we get given suggests it's the magic wand that will change everything.......sounds like in reality then, DD and DS next year, won't benefit from the changes in their upper school life. Shame. It's the same school me and DH went to and in those days, it was thriving to the point of equalling the local private school for exam results in some subjects. We were excited our children would have the same great schooling we had but it won't be sad

cricketballs Wed 12-Aug-15 17:52:27

given the recent headlines that 'coasting schools' will be forced to become academies there has been several studies conducted as to the success of them this is a good article

Whenever Nicki Morgan has been asked the question "what will happen to a failing school when it becomes a failing academy?" she changes the subject; she has never once answered that question although it has been asked on numerous occasions

DoctorDonnaNoble Wed 12-Aug-15 17:55:38

Academies can, and do, fail. Some have done so in quite dramatic circumstances. Academisation is not a cure-all.

Verbena37 Wed 12-Aug-15 17:57:14

Aren't academies part private? The money doesn't only come from the govt. does it? Don't they raise money themselves.....but how?

Verbena37 Wed 12-Aug-15 17:58:16

Ref. Nicky Morgan...yes, have watched some MP questions and she does a lot of very fast talking and thanking of the previous people without answering the questions about academies failing. grin

Millymollymama Wed 12-Aug-15 18:32:58

No. Sponsored academies are not private. They are state schools but a sponsor has put money into the school. This can be as little as £2m which does not go far in a secondary school. A C of E sponsored academy in my local town is failing. The truth of the matter is there are not enough top class Heads, senior management teams and teachers to go round. So whether it is an academy, or not, the lack of quality staff will always impinge on the quality of teaching and learning and therefore the success of the school. Even if the school gets a brilliant Head, they move on. My local village academy is RI due to poor science teaching and an inability to recruit good science teachers, especially ones capable of teaching A level. Progress of students doing sciences in the 6th form is poor.

It may well be that your school gets super staff and everything works out well. It may be that it cannot get worse, so remain positive. Sometimes changes can be quite quick - if they have quality staff, drive and energy to make changes. It is not about changes to uniform and new buildings. It is about how good the teaching is and the progress the children make.

TalkinPeace Wed 12-Aug-15 20:57:42

Academy sponsors in the Brown era had to put in £1m
which against the annual £5m budget if a secondary is nothing in the long term

what happens when an academy goes tits up?

THe head and governors stick their heads in the sand and find ways to fiddle the results

very occasionally a stand alone is forced to join a chain
or a chain is forced to hand schools to another chain

but there is nothing in the process that actually changes the essential nature of the school

(my catchment school has been in the bottom 100 nationally for 20 years despite multiple changes of name and owner)

Verbena37 Wed 12-Aug-15 21:23:57

Millymolly funny you mention change in uniform....they're doing that as well. In fact it's all they've harped about. What I want to know is why the kids aren't getting the good grades and how they're going to help them get those grades.

Apparently, the Head thinks the current uniforms contribute to the kids lack of self's going to need a whole lot more than improved self esteem to change the school. I think they're almost blaming the kids themselves for their teachers' failings, which is sad.

admission Wed 12-Aug-15 22:55:36

It is an interesting problem as to how to raise the attainment of pupils in a school. Without knowing the school and visiting the school it is difficult to know what the problems are. It is true that in many schools the self esteem of the pupils is low and they have a mentality of "well we will never do well". Changing things like the uniform and improving behaviour have proved in many schools to being a starting point to improvement.
However that does assume that the quality of the teaching is up to scratch in the school.
TalkinPeace obviously has first hand knowledge of a school that seems not to have anything going for them. My reaction to the idea that in 20 years it has languished in the bottom 100 schools is that there are fundamental problems in this school. In that period of time, things should have improved. I wonder whether in this case the best answer is shut the school but in these times of lack of school places, that probably will not be acceptable. To me a top class head teacher is necessary, not somebody who can slowly improve, but someone who will go in there, establish where the most obvious issues are and then make things happen. In the extreme that is removing all the governing body, all the previous senior managers and also all the teaching staff. Start again from scratch. That I suspect will cause a lot of negativity in terms of HR / union activity etc but actually do the pupils not deserve the very best possible education?

merlottime Thu 13-Aug-15 07:38:42

I think it is also inportant to understand why it is failing, and to look beyond the headlines. A school not far from me has a very, very high proportion of students on free school meals, English as an Additional Language etc. Their exam results are below average. The value added results of the school are however phenomenal, much better than many of the good/outstanding schools in the area which have less challenging circumstances. because Ofsted have rated them RI based on their exam performance (they rated leadership and management as good), the school struggles to attract more able kids from outside of the estate, or to replace teachers. The school is doing a lot to work to raise self-esteem and aspirations amongst their cohorts which I do think is really important in getting everyone to believe that the excellent value add can translate into more C grades and above, but it's not easy.

TalkinPeace Thu 13-Aug-15 09:35:23

My local school is in the middle of a huge council estate with triple generation unemployment and where a 4x4 means 4 kids 4 dads
it will always be a dire school
because the intake is 95% poor whites (in demographic parlance)
its only hope is the huge influx of Poles this city has experienced

Millymollymama Thu 13-Aug-15 10:24:07

There are plenty of dire schools that have improved. Lots in London have. It really is down to the Head and staff that can be attracted to the school. These staff have to drive standards, raise self esteem and change the ethos of the school. Often changes need to be huge.

You ask, Verbena, why the school continues to have poor results. You will find Ofsted are now looking very closely at progress and not just results. You can find out from the Government's web site via the league tables whether your school has many high achieving children, middle achieving and low achieving. The percentages of these will obviously lead to lower or better results. However progress is key. Any decent Head will be ensuring that all children make good, or better progress, from whatever their starting point might be. If lots of the children are level 3-4 Sats in KS2, then you won't see lots of A grades at GCSE. The way a Head can ensure good progress is to have fantastic teachers and ensure that lessons are based on prior learning and assessment of the children. Often setting helps with this.

Recruiting staff is the big, big problem. How do you attract them? Teachers want to work in a dynamic, well managed environment with support from the SLT. If the Governors can do this, they will attract good staff. If they carry on with low expectations, poor teaching and SLT not supporting teachers, there will not be improvement. Blazers can help, but it is teaching and quality of learning that really makes a good school.

Verbena37 Thu 13-Aug-15 12:47:12

millymolly strange you should mention's almost as if you know the school I'm talking about grin.

It's great if Ofsted are now looking at progress rather than only end results but I think that secondary schools need to acknowledge and do more to help those who aren't aiming to go to uni. Our school is helping by giving more time to maths and English in the hope to raise grades at GCSE level but if schools, such as the one talkinginpeace mentions have a high proportion of kids who won't achieve those grades, it will still surely look like a failing school/academy when in reality, the teachers and management could be fab....just not have high achieving children (in maths, English and science).

And the lies my problem....everything is based on maths, English and science and whilst I realise that grades c+ in these subjects is pretty crucial for so many jobs and courses, not everybody needs them to work. For example, you leave school at 16 and get a job as a gardener or housekeeper in a hotel or on a big estate. Then you stay there and work your way up to head gardener and head housekeeper, never needing English, maths or science GCSE. Hw can that mean they've failed or that the school failed them? I'm going off on a tangent now...oops. I just think many of our schools aren't failing or needing improvements (other than everyday improvements).....and I don't think turning them all into academies is necessarily the answer.

Millymollymama Thu 13-Aug-15 13:18:29

I honestly do not know the school.

However Ofsted look at progress of all children. The lowest attainers will still be expected to have made progress from their KS2 Sats to KS4 and GCSEs. They may not end up taking many GCSE exams but could do more vocational qualifications taken in conjunction with the local college or training centre. The SLT and Governors must provide an appropriate curriculum for all the children. The Middle attainers can definitely get plenty of A*-C grades. Schools should also encourage everyone to do their best and not just think you can do little with children because they are a 4x4 family as described above or are white, male, working (or non working) class or are pupil pre I'm children. Schools that can get all children to make progress are the successful ones.

You only have to look at the programme about Chinese style teaching to see that good, interesting, lessons get the respect of the children. Droning on does not suit the majority, even in a very good school in leafy Hampshire!

Millymollymama Thu 13-Aug-15 13:24:51

By the way, the big problem with not having the basic GCSEs is that it really stops young people furthering their education, accessing the careers they may want and even getting a lowly job in the first place. Even gardeners have to know quantities of seeds, measure out and mix weed killer safely and learn the names of plants - maybe even in Latin . Head gardeners have gardening qualifications now! The person at the bottom with no qualifications is likely to stay there. Society has changed from the days when only a relatively small percentage got O levels and the rest were taken on to be trainee plumbers, shop workers, drivers and gardeners. Life will not be easy without basic qualifications.

Verbena37 Thu 13-Aug-15 13:39:16

Yes, you're right I guess. My gardening analogy wasn't great.
The thing with our school is that it's a very leafy area of the county and there is a high number of high achieving children from high achieving families. Ofsted's main issue at their last visit was that staff weren't challenging the children enough and the children didn't believe in their own abilities due to the lack of extended work.

I'm really hoping the change in a lot of staff will help the school improve.

Millymollymama Thu 13-Aug-15 14:30:57

In that case any senior management team worth its salt will put that right. It is a clear indication that the brightest children are not making enough progress. Have you looked up how they compare with similar schools? There will be a list on the Government's web site. Hopefully it will get better and you can be confident of your DCs doing well.

admission Thu 13-Aug-15 15:31:02

Know the situation well. The secondary where I am a governor has a very mixed and large catchment, from very affluent to very deprived. We, as a school have the same issue with a significant minority of pupils where they are third generation on the dole and have zero expectation of improvement.
We have an outstanding pastoral system in place and we spend an in-ordinate amount of time and energy with these pupils and their parents (if available!) to try to break the cycle. We are slowly winning but agree that it is a long term issue.

Figmentofmyimagination Sun 16-Aug-15 20:46:25

The broad point of academisation for the current administration is to pick apart national terms and conditions and to undo national level collective bargaining. Anything else is collateral benefit/damage.

prh47bridge Mon 17-Aug-15 09:57:54

The broad point of academisation for the current administration is to pick apart national terms and conditions and to undo national level collective bargaining

No it isn't. They are working on the basis of evidence that shows schools perform better with the freedoms that come with academy status. That is why academies were introduced by the last Labour administration and is why the Conservatives have put rocket boosters under the programme.

Of course some academies will fail. It isn't a silver bullet that fixes all problems. The evidence available in the UK strongly suggests that academies improve more rapidly than other types of school. The evidence around the world is that schools perform best with these freedoms. But inevitably some schools will fail and need to be fixed just as with other types of school. It would be great if all schools could be outstanding but no-one has yet invented a way of achieving that.

TalkinPeace Mon 17-Aug-15 11:38:06

They are working on the basis of evidence that shows schools perform better with the freedoms that come with academy status.
Link please.

Minifingers Mon 17-Aug-15 11:39:04

" that shows schools perform better with the freedoms that come with academy status. That is why academies were introduced by the last Labour administration"

What evidence is this?

prh47bridge Mon 17-Aug-15 12:50:03

Link please

Take a look at the OECD studies looking into the factors that mark out countries performing well in the PISA tests. There is plenty of other evidence internationally to the same effect.

Fundamentally, it seems that the best results are achieved where schools have freedom to set their own curriculum (which could be delivered for LA-controlled schools but is currently limited to academies) and there is a high level of competition for students (which is generally not delivered by LA-controlled systems as these tend to avoid "surplus" places).

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