Some lessons learned about converting Academies

Helen Flynn's picture
 5
Having been involved as a governor with a school converting to academy status, these are just a few of the things that I have learned, and may make people really think about whether they would become a governor in an Academy.

The extra cash--or, if you like, the bribe--that many of us thought was there when ready reckoner calculations were initially done, is not, in fact, there. Initially, we were told as a governing body that we would be better off--net--by £2 million over 5 years. This was the main reason why we were told by the Head that we could not miss this one-off opportunity to shore us up over the coming years. (The fact that it was morally wrong did not concern 90% of the governors.)

Actually, when we have come down to the wire and have had the hard cash worked out and put in front of us for consideration, there is virtually nothing in it, particularly given our extra responsibilities and liabilities. This puts us in a rather uncomfortable position with local press, parents, pupils, etc, as they have understood that we are seeking academy status, and now it looks like it's a bit daft, to say the least, to spend all this money on conversion (including the £25,000 grant [ie taxpayer money] from government, more on this later), and isolate ourselves from the community when there is in fact no financial gain.

The head may say that he still thinks it is a good move because of not having to kow-tow to the LA, etc, and it's important that we as an institution decide how to spend our money. But he conveniently ignores the fact that over 80% of our budget is committed to staff costs. It may be very nice to become "lord of the paperclips", but what has that got to do with what schools should be doing, which is educating our children well?

I am very uncomfortable that in a time of huge cuts, LA budgets have been top-sliced to fund the academy programme: £148 million this year and a further £117 next year. I suppose those amounts are being used to build up the bureaucracy required centrally to administer academies, and of course, to fund the multiples of £25,000 grants going out to convertor schools (those law firms must be rubbing their hands in glee!).

I am also increasingly aware that some academies are getting into financial trouble. the Public Accounts Committee published at the end of January a report into academies (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmpubacc/552/...) which stated that over a quarter of academies may require additional financial or managerial support to secure their longer term future.

Given that the governor role is voluntary, it strikes me that you are taking on one hell of a risk in assuming all this new responsibility, when Government itself is more or less telling us that some academies are doomed financially.

Governors in converting schools must think very hard about their new responsibilities as company directors--as that is what they actually will be in law when the school converts. Is that what you signed up for when you became a governor at a community school in the first place?
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Comments

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 10/02/2011 - 16:45

Helen

Interesting post - could you say more about the funds that did not flow from the LA to the academy? Isn't this normally where the extra income to the school potentially comes from?

I know other schools have said they get quite a boost from this. Maybe you had a very efficient LA to begin with that passed alot of money to their schools with not much central spending?

Can you give us an idea of the figures even if it is only % terms rather than amounts?

Thanks

Ben

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Thu, 10/02/2011 - 17:08

Thank you so much Helen. This will prove really helpful for our new Anti-Academy campaign in Louth.

H & F Parent's picture
Mon, 21/02/2011 - 20:52

"The fact that it was morally wrong did not concern 90% of the governors." That for me is the most telling quote. Hey, London Oratory School governors, are you reading this?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/02/2011 - 08:38

In considering Academy status, Bourne Grammar School (Lincolnshire) made it clear in the consultation letter in early October 2010 that the main reason for conversion is financial. The school blames the Government for creating uncertainty and the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme:

“We anticipate a significant reduction in our budget. Our Governors feel that, in an uncertain financial environment, the education of our current and future students will be best safeguarded by conversion to Academy status. …
Will any financial advantage of conversion to Academy Status be significant? The Government’s own calculations indicate that, as an Academy, we would have control of a further £462 per student – a total of some £450,000 – a significant proportion of our annual budget of £4M.”

It would be interesting to know how much of this extra ½ million would be used to pay for the extra administration costs.

http://www.bourne-grammar.lincs.sch.uk/dlf09/100927170212_Consultation%2...

Sian's picture
Sat, 11/02/2012 - 19:45

Here is the correct URL for the section of the Public Accounts Committee report which talks about the number of academies needing increased financial or managerial support - see paragraph 9 on this page: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmpubacc/552/...

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