New Academy Funding Agreements--Wading Through the Details

Helen Flynn's picture
I have recently had the chance to mull over the model funding document and the model articles of association for the new academies in some detail. It is not a job to be undertaken lightly, as there is a fair amount to get through.

There is lots to comment on, but two issues stand out. It is quite clear to me there has been a massive gap between Gove's rhetoric and sales pitch about outstanding schools being expected to help schools not as 'high-achieving' as them and the reality of what they are being asked to sign up to. There is not a word about any expectation for the academy to help any other school.

Also, there is a vast amount of room allocated to what happens if the school starts not to do well, ie ways that the DfE can shoehorn in Gove's people to 'sort' the school out, if it falls below par. Basically this just seems to be a massive excuse for the chains to come in and take over schools as they begin to not do as well, with the DfE being enablers. Privatisation by the back door?

Just something else for schools to think about as they consider academy status. As governors, our duty is to the school--as it is now and how it will continue in the future. And it is this aspect of continuity that is worrying. A headteacher currently at an outstanding school is clearly doing a good job, and the school will no doubt continue to flourish even if it changes status. But what happens when he/she leaves? This is where things could begin to change at these new academies.

Though some schools are probably keen to move away from their Local Authority, it could be a case of "better the devil you know". At least within local structures there is an opportunity to look someone in the eye and discuss problems face to face and to establish a relationship. Not so with the DfE. Though maybe they are expecting the chains to take over a form of LA role.......? How would we get accountability then, I wonder?
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Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 12/01/2011 - 19:53

Helen, this is very interesting and deeply disturbing, particularly since my school is currently considering Academy status. The main reason seems to be extra cash involved. A couple of questions.

1. Where can we find the accounts for Academies? LA schools have their published (see previous post by me), but I would like to know the cash reserves of my local Academy and I can't find it.
2. What is the exact criteria by which the DfE can intervene with a "failing" Academy? Is the criteria for failure very clearly spelt out? In other words, could a school with good results mostly, but "bad" English Bacc results be taken over?

Alasdair Smith's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 13:34

Good questions Francis. My understanding is that you can no longer see the accounts of academies as they are 'exempt charities'.

Did you see the story about the Marlowe Academy? It has been failing for some time and according to the Sunday Times the government are increasingly frustrated about how to sort the problem out. My understanding is that the only people who can replace a failing academy is another sponsor. The criteria for intervention appear to be malleable. 'Underperformance' is being re-defined and, in the case of forced primary academies, historic underperformance - up to 5 years ago- can be used as a trigger.

The real problem is that all of this is outside of current frameworks of education law. The funding agreements are contracts between the academy trust and SoS. As a parent of an academy you have no remedy under the law in relation to the funding agreement. This has been one of the main reasons why we opposed academy status from the outset.

If your school hasn't signed the funding agreement, then there is still time to stop it.

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