Liberal Dems and Tories sound warnings over academy funding

Fiona Millar's picture
This is a good piece by Lib Dem councillor Peter Downes, published on a prominent grass roots Liberal Democrat website, on the reality of academy funding. Peter has been crunching numbers on the extra resources being channeled towards convertor schools for the past year and I would recommend also looking at this briefing note he has done on how the LACSEG section of academy funding is calculated ( or miscalculated might be a more accurate description) LACSEG and the funding of academies.June 2011.

His latest analysis shows that the government is overspending its budget on academies by about £600 million a year. This money is effectively funding bribes to schools to convert but it is hard to see how it can continue indefinitely.

Another interesting straw in the wind is the volte face that has been done by the Tory Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter who has been blowing hot and cold about whether academy conversions are a good thing. First he spoke out against Tory policy before the election, then he became a supporter of all LA schools opting out, now he is sounding warning bells again. Partly because of funding and also because (although the message is coded ) he has clearly realised that a future government of a different political persuasion may not necessarily have the interests of Kent's grammar schools at heart.

Here is what he said:

"A further concern is how the school landscape of Kent, which offers maximum parental and pupil choice through its wide range of school types, may be affected after future general elections.

"One needs to consider very carefully who may be in charge of national government in the future; without being too political, schools need to think long and hard about what impact a future change in government might have on their status and if they will be able to retain their unique ethos and character, when they are under the control of the Secretary of State."

Maybe some good could come out of the mass , lemming like rush to academy status by selective schools. A future Labour government could use the power of the centrally controlled funding agreement to require them to end academic selection. And it is too late for them to turn back now.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 24/07/2011 - 07:59

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the academy conversion programme is starting to cause chaos. Lincolnshire Councillor Stephen Williams said the potential loss of LA budget caused by school’s opting-out of LA control could have wider issues, "Everything is in a state of flux at the moment, which is very frustrating when we are trying the provide the best for the children of Lincolnshire.”

That’s the position now. What the future holds is uncertain, but it seems increasingly unlikely that stand-alone academies, particularly very small ones, will be able to cope unless they join an academy chain, and John Burn OBE, a supporter of academies, warned about problems associated with academy chains in his evidence to the Education Bill Committee: schools being centrally controlled by unaccountable, remote organisations.

A briefing document to Lincolnshire councillors highlights concerns about academy conversion – these apply to all local authorities, although the effect on non-grammar schools (ie secondary moderns) will be more acute in areas which, like Lincolnshire and Kent, retain selection. These concerns are listed in my post of 22 July on this thread:

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 24/07/2011 - 08:02

The possibility of a future government removing selection from grammar schools which became academies is made explicit in this response by Bourne United Charities (BUC) after their discussions with Bourne Grammar School, the DfE and MP Nick Boles about the BUC veto on Bourne Grammar becoming an academy:

“Selection has been a major part of the admission process to the school and therefore an integral part of the Legal Status. The Government could at any time remove selection although this seems unlikely”.

But a future government might.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Sun, 24/07/2011 - 17:16

That would be the most ironic end to selection.....

Helen Flynn's picture
Sun, 24/07/2011 - 20:31

I think it is time to revisit the Impact Assessment that Gove signed off for the Academies Bill. In that he estimated that there would be 200 academies converting per year over 4 years, therefore 800 in total; 200 in 2010/11; another 200 in 2011/12, and so on (we are way, way ahead of these totals based on current conversions and ones in the pipeline). He also estimated that the total one-off costs in 2010/11 would be £14 million and that the total annual economic costs of converters on 2010/11 would be £33 million.

He is way off the mark and should be held to account for his inability to control the academy conversion process and the massive economic cost the accelerated rate of progress is causing the country.

If this were the private sector, he would have to answer to his superiors for his lax figures and inability to estimate the costs accurately. He would be out of a job. It seems that he has, by his incompetence, caused a massive financial hole to develop at the DfE. All based on no cast iron evidence of the overall improvement in results of the academy programme.

He describes the “benefits” of the programme as “the increase in estimated lifetime earnings of the additional number of pupils attending academies and obtaining improved GCSE grades”. What guff!! Whoever let him get away with that complete immeasurable nonsense needs removing from office. As does Gove. At the least he is incompetent, at the worst he is devious.

botzarelli's picture
Tue, 26/07/2011 - 10:47

It is slightly sad that a previous Labour government used democratic means to enable the switch from selective to comprehensive education and managed to win the argument in the vast majority of local authorities but Ms Millar and commenters on her piece take such glee in the idea of a future Labour government finishing the job by stealth in places where they never won the argument democratically.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 26/07/2011 - 15:28

Botzarelli - I think the tone was more ironic than gleeful. Most local authorities went comprehensive under Mrs Thatcher's watch - she left it to local authorities and they decided to change to the comprehensive system having, as you correctly said, won the argument. It was only a tiny number of counties that retained selection: Lincolnshire and Kent being two of them. And where there are grammar schools, there are also secondary moderns, whatever name the schools give themselves. Hence the worry expressed by a Lincolnshire councillor about the negative effect on secondary moderns if grammar academies expand which they are allowed to do once they become academies. However, I think the legislation allows for a ballot if there were moves to end selection. That would be the democratic answer.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 01/08/2011 - 13:25

I think that the Labour Party probably had it about right with the Academies programme, using it to raise achievement amongst the most disadvantaged communities. Under Gove, it's basically become a way of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 02/08/2011 - 07:16

Although the recent LSE report concluded there was an "academy effect" on the performance of neighbouring schools, they warned that this was only noticeable when academies had been there for a long time, and more time would be needed to see if this effect was sustained.

At the same time, the National Audit Office 2010 report on academies concluded that pre-converter academies (ie those established under Labour's original scheme) may have been failing in their aim of helping the disadvantaged because they were attracting more advantaged children.

The Labour party's programme was flawed and laid the foundations for what is happening now with the demise of local authorities and the growth of unaccountable academy chains.

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