No, academies were not on target to become the majority by 2022
Updated version: Figures based on primary and secondary schools.
Sometimes I wonder if government ministers just make it up on the spur of the moment. On Radio 4's Today programme yesterday, Schools Minister Nick Gibb was faced with having to explain why they were forcing all schools to become academies, given the lack of evidence that it improves performance.
He claimed first that by 2022, "even on current trends", the "vast majority" of schools would be academies anyway. He then went further: "If we look ahead to six years time we will be in the position where something like three quarters of schools will be academies."
There is a problem with this claim. It simply isn't true. Here are the figures for schools converting:
By the end of 2015, including the academies established before 2010, there were 5,061 academies. If we assume that last year's figure, of 675 mainstream primary and secondary schools converting, continues in future years, then the majority of schools would not have transferred until 2024 and it would not reach 75% until the 2030s. (There are 20,147 mainstream state schools in England, or a total of 21,891 including special schools and PRUs.)
So, no, Mr Gibb: three quarters of schools are not set to convert by 2022.
Also the number of converting schools is declining, by 15% in 2014 and 13% in 2015 to that figure of 675. If we assume this declining trend were to continue (as most schools who want to become academies will already have done so), reducing by an ongoing 13% a year, then the majority of schools would not have transferred even by 2050.
So if 675 schools a year converted, academies would represent 47% of schools by 2022. If the declining trend continued it would be just 38%.
Academy Conversions: In Decline
The estimate of a 13% decline is probably too sympathetic to the government. In January and February 2016 just 73 schools converted to academy status, a decline of 38% on the first two months of 2015.
The discussion that led to the white paper would not have been based on the prospect of the majority of schools becoming academies, never mind three quarters. It is much more likely to have been based on the fact that conversions were declining and were unlikely ever to reach half of schools.
This perhaps explains the need for the white paper. The ongoing decline in conversions meant that it would never be the case that the majority of schools would become academies. The only way to achieve it was coercion.
Data source: Open academies and academies in development, DfE, March 2016
The figure of 20,147 mainstream schools in England (16,766 primaries and 3,381 secondaries) comes from this DfE statistical release and is for January 2015. There are also 971 state-funded special schools and 362 Pupil Referral Units. These have not been included because most media discussion is based solely on the figures for mainstream primary and secondary schools.