The Academies Commission 2013: what did the Commission say?

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The Academies Commission reported in January 2013. Its remit was to investigate the implications of an education system in which most schools were academies.

This page will be a reference point for summaries of points made by the Academies Commission. More links will be added when threads about the Commission are posted.

Accountability and social inclusion: Not all academies were committed to social inclusion.  Some academies were not sufficiently accountable or responsive to parents.  The Commission warned that academization could have a negative effect on hard-to-place pupils.

Admissions Academies are their own admissions authority. The Commission highlighted concerns about academies flouting the Admissions Code in order to select particular pupils.

Autonomy One of the central planks of the academy programme is that academy conversion will result in greater “freedom”. The Commission found that:

1 Most things an academy can do, a maintained school can also do.

2 All UK schools already have considerable freedom.

Chains  There are fears that some academy chains are expanding too quickly and some had no coherent policy for improvement.  At the same time, some academy heads complained about centralised control.  Primary schools were reluctant to convert - many valued their relationship with local authorities.

Innovation Academy conversion is supposed to bring the freedom to innovate.  But the Commission concluded that innovation is inhibited by league tables not by lack of freedom.

Freedom, fragmentation and self-interest  Some academy head had qualms about controversial "freedoms" such as being able to employ untrained teachers.  Other evidence feared the education system could become fragmented with academies acting in their own interest.

Recommendations

School improvement (as measured by results. Caveat: a rise in results does not necessarily mean that the education provided by a school has really improved. It may be, for example, that a school is teaching-to-the-test and neglecting other skills, or it has relied on “equivalent”, non-GCSE exams, or it is selecting those pupils most likely to succeed. Nevertheless, results are the Government’s chosen measure of school performance so it’s important to know whether the academy programme is succeeding according to the Government’s preferred measure. The evidence suggests it is not.)

The Commission found many previously underperforming non-academies did as well as similar academies

Comment piece (not necessarily the views of the Commission) about the link between academy conversion and school improvement.

Additional data which debunks the Government’s line that academy conversion is essential for school improvement can be found in the faq Do academies get better results, or improve more quickly, than other state schools? and here.

Structures, systems and initiatives.  The Commission found that the avalanche of Government initiatives and a focus on structures and systems was diverting attention for the classroom.