Academy conversions slowing down

Fiona Millar's picture
Interesting post here from John Fowler at the Local Government Information Unit. Suggests that the rate of academy conversations is now slowing down and at the current rate, it would take 30 years for all schools to convert to academy status.
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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 11/11/2011 - 13:03

Samuel Morris's picture
Fri, 11/11/2011 - 19:24

My view of this whole agenda now is that schools either jumped and grabbed a cash bonus, or have/are being forced by the government using new floor targets to become academies.

I guess the question that remains unanswered is what happens if a school sits tight and stays LA Maintained? It would appear that nothing will change, and that many academy freedoms would be applicable to you over time. or am I wrong??

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 11/11/2011 - 20:06

In the end some sort of middle tier will have to be reinvented . Even Gove now admits that. The middle tier will almost certainly retain some funds, rather like the academy chains do, to provide central services. If you sit tight, everything comes round again in the end!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 11/11/2011 - 20:38

It does in a system with complete coverage.

Emerging systems are different.

I wonder if he's finally read it? And if so if he understands it?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 08:15

If Mr Gove has read it, it's likely that he will only take from it the bits that agree (or seem to agree) with his policies. He does this with OECD research that he claims to respect - cherrypicking a few choice quotes but ignoring contradictory evidence. Or using OECD data which the OECD has found to be flawed (ie the 2000 UK PISA test results which Mr Gove uses repeatedly to "prove" that UK school children have fallen down international league tables and the only way to return to this position is to push through his "reforms").

I think he's also probably read Orwell - not as a warning but as a blueprint showing how to deceive most of the people most of the time. Think of the sheep in "Animal Farm": "LA schools b-a-a-a-d; Academies g-o-o-o-d; Academy chains b-e-t-t-e-r."

JimC's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 11:36

You are basically describing your own method of arguing Janet. I can't believe you haven't noticed this.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 09:28

One of the messages which is very strongly expressed throughout the book, Janet, is a warning to politicians that they MUST understand that in the planning of a public service with complete coverage there will always be dedicated people who are disaffected because they lost out when a decision had to be made to choose one route forward rather than another.

It warns that politicians are likely to think that substantial 'leaps forward' can be made when they listen to much to these groups but that they are wrong and they must be aware that the difference they can make is, at most, marginal and will only be positive if they are deeply aware of the reasons for the status quo.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 12:07

Have you read the book Jim? I do recommend it.

I agree, Gove's modes are presentation are far more dangerous than Orwell describes here.

When I watched him from from a live Any Questions audience here in Cockermouth (I think it was in 2004 in the days when he was still a hack), I was stunned and deeply disturbed by his eloquence and how exceptionally convincing and intelligent he made an argument which was essentially "society will be better if we punish the baddies more" sound.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 13:18

Evidence from Finland shows that long-lasting educational reform is built up slowly and with consensus. It is not the result of high-profile initiatives by governments or politicians. In Hong Kong also, reforms didn’t happen overnight. They involved four years of preparation which included involving the media to arrive at consensus. This careful development continues in China – the Chinese Ministry of Education published a “consultation draft” in February 2010 which had taken over 18 months to produce. The consultation process involved “thousands of professionals and experts, more than 23,000 seminars, technical reports of more than five million words, and 2.1 million submissions.

The OECD report on Hong Kong stresses the need for educators and policy-makers to remember that learning is “the core business of education”. It warns that some countries emphasise strategic planning or finance, management or accountability while ignoring the “causes, environments and processes of student learning.” This sounds depressingly like what is happening in England.


Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 13:25

Educational "reform" in England begins with ideology not with evidence. Mr Gove and his supporters fish round for "evidence" to support their ideology while ignoring any evidence that disputes it. Evidence from reputable sources (OECD, IFS, EEF, TIMSS, and so on) which contradicts Mr Gove's ideology is presented on this site with links so readers can make up their own minds. Strangely, those who attack the evidence on this site rarely present opposing evidence - often making vague comments about "cherry picking" without showing the cherries that haven't been picked.

JimC's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 16:45

You are describing your own method of arguing again and you don't have to present opposing evidence when the evidence presented is poor evidence. For pity sake Janet you've even presented evidence before that disproves what you are saying.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 17:11

The evidence I have presented (with links) comes from reputable sources such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Trends in Maths and Science Survey, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Education Endowment Fund, Full, the Office for National Statistics, to name just a few.

I am surprised that JimC regards all these as "poor evidence" since they are upheld by research which has been analysed and conclusions drawn. I am also surprised that evidence from these respected sources is attacked with such vehemence while at the same time no opposing evidence is offered. Perhaps that's because there isn't any.

Returning to Fiona's original point - that academy conversion is slowing down. There could be many reasons for this: the funding at the present level is unsustainable; the much vaunted "freedoms" may be extra burdens; schools which haven't converted may feel they are better off with the support of the local authority rather than going it alone or submitting to a non-democratically-accountable academy chain; that academy conversion is distracting the school from its main purpose - educating children. Or there may be other reasons which it would be more useful to discuss rather than claiming that evidence from reputable sources is, nevertheless, "poor evidence".

Ben Taylor's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 17:21

I can't understand what the relevance of this is to the academy program. Unless it is as reported on page 108 of the Shanghai and HK document ( that accountability is through strong parental choice of school and constant media reporting of school difference?

Or maybe that teacher quality is highly selective through the bar that has to be achieved to enter the profession, on page 129 of the Finland document, with consequences of greater teacher autonomy and working conditions? Or as described on page 130 virtually all the money is spent on schools and classrooms with no money spent on intermediate units of education?

JimC's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 17:50

Every link of yours that I've looked into links to publications that lack a detailed methodology and you can't or won't explain how their conclusions were formed. This is poor evidence.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 18:14

I've taught in Hong Kong so you can ask me if you like.

Clearly in Hong Kong and Shanghai you're going to get a high level of parental choice because the population is so dense. I guess you don't need to have worked there to puzzle that one out. Any findings are going to be difficult to apply to a large country!

Janet says:
"Evidence from Finland shows that long-lasting educational reform is built up slowly and with consensus. It is not the result of high-profile initiatives by governments or politicians"

Well evidence form blooming everywhere shows that, as does the theory of education management and as does the study of the economics of education. The only time governments can make substantial differences through policy is when the sytems are evolving - in other words when there is not yet full coverage. Once there is full coverage which involves provision for all the most vulnerable children Janet's comment becomes true becuase there are certain minimum points in the economics of planning such sytems which are self correcting.

Well at least it always did according to anyone who had substantial experience in planning education or in understanding the economics of education until Michael Gove came along. Now, of course, it is not true. Because he says so. And if he says it it can't be true can it? Because if you say it's not you're fired and replaced with someone who agrees with him.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 18:23

You're right Janet.

The justification for new schools is that American Charters are a good model for Britain to follow. Instead of honestly presenting the facts - that there are very good charters as well as very bad; that New York Charters are unique because of the level of fiscal disparity between them and the role of philanthropy; that the drive to hit targets has led to widespread cheating as well as high levels of attrition; that less than 20% of charters performed better than public schools; that charters have failed to raise attainment levels for the poorest and most disadvantaged Americans; that for years tests in New York were made easier in order to provide flattering data showing that, under "reform", schools vastly improved - the coalition instead chose to focus on what they and their acolytes call "an unprecedented achievement" in closing the achievement gap between rich and poor in New York.

It's a measure of the way that Gove not only cherry picks his "evidence" but presents dubious "evidence" as concrete fact to justify his ideology. The study by Caroline Hoxby reached the conclusion of the Scarsdale-Harlem gap via unreliable methods and a massive and unscientific extrapolation of unreliably sourced data.

The end result is that Gove and his fellow libertarians have imported a failed education system into Britain and are justifying it by promoting misleading information and manipulated research. It's a catastrophic waste of tax payers money. When that runs out, what will be the final resort? For-profit making companies will come to the resuce. But of whom? The schools? Or their shareholders?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 18:27

Hopeless attempt at discrediting without providing any credible evidence or argument of your own. Why don't you take the time to source original reports and interpretations - which Janet has so obviously done - , read and digest them and provide some rigorous evidence? Much of this is to be readily found on the internet

Ben Taylor's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 19:34

"certain minimum points in the economics of planning such sytems which are self correcting." - would be useful from my point of view for you to expound this point Rebecca.

It's interesting to consider consensus. Presumably since WLFS was several times
oversubscribed it is a huge point of consensus for many parents and children in that vicinity. If we agree that London has a high density like HK/Shanghai that represents an opportunity to copy the consensus of HK and Shanghai, as long as we assume that this consensus is transcultural. Granted it may not be possible to offer such extent of choice in less dense areas, that does not mean we can't and shouldn't offer it where we can. And this consensus is a substantial difference created primarily by the school with its community rather than the politician who is secondary, although it is certainly facilitated by the politician. It's a puzzle why a minister has to faciliate it rather than a local councillor but there we are.

jimc's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 20:14

Why should someone have to provide evidence to disprove claims that are not supported by rigourous evidence.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 20:30

It's always a good idea to link to the evidence on which your claim is made Jimc. It allows others to analyse and interact with your point (which helps deeper insights to emerge) rather than just encouraging them to make unevidenced claims back.

Here are some other insights into how conversations become productive:

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 20:27

"would be useful from my point of view for you to expound this point Rebecca."
Well the most obvious aspect of it is that coherent local planning leads to a far more efficient system than any other form of governance offers Ben.

There has traditionally been a great deal of choice in London because of the population density in London Ben. If you go back to the days of grammers and secondary moderns, London also offered options like 'Middle Schools' for students who passed some subjects at 11+ and failed others.

The most important driver of choice is the extent to which central systems give teachers and schools the freedom to innovate. Prior to Ofsted and the National Curriculum there was substantial variety in provision and it was the development of the national curriculum and central grading systems for the quality of provision combined with the focus on league tables which so suddenly homogenised the face of education in the UK which had previously showed great diversity on many parameters.

Many labour policies attempted to recreated diversity in a centrally planned way. Those which deliberately attempted to reempower teachers to drive diversity had only limited success because of the straight jackets imposed by Ofsted, SATS and league tables. It wasn't until the dying days of the labour government that they got through the law which would force Ofsted to modernise and adopt the thinking behind the Hampton review of regulation which are designed to allow greater practitioner freedom and to prevent regulators being used by politicians to force organisations to pursue inappropriately narrow targets.

It is a puzzle to me as to why Michael Gove has chosen not to ensure Ofsted Implement these reforms and has instead chosen to hit them with random reforms which will not push them to modernise at all. Having discussed this with Ofsted, it strikes me that they are running rings round him as they have no desire to modernise at all for very obvious reasons.

The constraints imposed by SATS will hopefully be overcome when the new criteria based formative qualification systems being accredited by Ofqual become established and integrated effectively with APP. Future systems should allow far more diversity while retaining the benefits of robust monitoring.

Freedom in education is nothing to do with Gove's policies Ben. That's just spin. Or perhaps hubris and ignorance. I don't know.

jimc's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 20:49

For pity sake one can cast doubt on a conclusion if that conclusion is based on weak evidence without offering a different conclusion. Do you understand this?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:07

It's a free discussion jimc. If you just want to attack someone with ad hominem abuse without saying anything constructive that's your right. It's just a bit dull for the rest of us to read.

I was trying to encourage you to say something which was worth reading. That's all.

jimc's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:14

An ad hominem is attacking a person rather than their argument. Perhaps you can explain why my desire for proper evidence is an ad hominem?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:29

Well you're generalising rather than specialising and saying that's what she always does when a brief read of the forum clearly shows that's untrue.

Make a well constructed and specific criticism then it's possible for Janet or others to interact with it. If you make a general criticism about the person which isn't sufficiently specific to lead to that kind of dialoge that's ad hominem abuse.

jimc's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:44

Critcising someones method of argument is not an ad hominem. If you think it is perhaps you should take issue with Janet because she is making the same criticism of Micheal Gove that I am making of her.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:49

I disagreed with Janet's assessment of Gove in a constructive way Jimc.

In general if you make a comment with lots of irrelevant and or abusive stuff in it I'll ignore that and interact with the bit which is an interesting comment about education Jimc......

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:51

Trying to drag someone into a circular argument about what constitutes an ad nauseum ad hominem isn't showing you have evidence that might challenge Janet's arguments and says nothing about why you think Academy conversion is slowing down, despite the coalition's trumpeting of the scale of the "reform". You're digging yourself down deeper Jimbo. I really am very concerned about you.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 22:06

I'm not concerned. I think it's okay to explore precisely why some posts work and others don't and that seemed to be want Jimc was doing Allan. Hopefully he understands now.

This article gives some insight into the reasons why academy conversions may be slowing down. Especially now schools aren't being strongly financially incentivised. There's a lot of interesting detail in this article.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 21:47

"For pity sake", as you might say!

Because if you actually provided the level of rigorous and robust evidence advanced by Janet Downs (or any evidence whatsoever...), you might advance your perspective of the discussion and give us the benefit of why you think the Academy programme might be slowing down. A quick trawl through the posts on this website reveals a wealth of links to evidence, articles and reports to illuminate what Janet contributes. A trawl through your contributions reveals mainly feeble attempts at diverting attention away from very bright lights being shone on the massive flaws of the coalition's education policy. You would be a much more effective defender of the realm if you set aside your petulant reluctance to play with the grown ups and contribute a bit more well researched and complete evidence.

If I'm committing another ad hominem faux pas ad nauseum, no need to mention it.

jimc's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 00:21

Allan, Rebecca falsely accused me of ad hominem arguing. It is unreasonable of you to expect people to ignore false accusations and even more unreasonable to complain that questioning foul play is changing the subject. Now, my criticism of Janet is about her style and general quality of some of her sources - why do I need to provide evidence about academy conversions to critique these things? Do you understand that it is possible to dismiss a conclusion if that conclusion is based on invalid evidence?

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 08:32


My initial contribution to this thread was to point out to Janet that she, like Micheal Gove, is known to cherrypick evidence to support her arguments. Perhaps you are unaware that this isn't the first time this has been pointed out:

And possibly here:

Now your initial response to all this was strange as you advised me to read 'the book' - presumably George Orwell's Animal Farm. I think you missed the point, I wasn't nor have I disagreed with Janet's assessment of Gove being a cherry picker - my issue is that she demands others to meet standards that she does not consider meeting in her own arguments.

The conversation moved on - despite other visitors pointing this out and my short reminder Janet was at it again accusing Gove of 'fishing' around for evidence. Janet also made a veiled accusation 'Strangely, those who attack the evidence on this site rarely present opposing evidence – often making vague comments about “cherry picking” without showing the cherries that haven’t been picked.'

My response to this was to point out that one doesn't have to present counter evidence for an argument if that argument is weak. In other words a conclusion based on terrible evidence is an invalid and unfounded conclusion. Allan began whining about attempts at 'discrediting without providing any credible evidence or argument of your own.'

I repeated my point.

You joined in again and clearly misunderstood what I had said:

'It’s always a good idea to link to the evidence on which your claim is made Jimc. It allows others to analyse and interact with your point (which helps deeper insights to emerge) rather than just encouraging them to make unevidenced claims back.'

This is a strange thing to say especially if my 'claim' is that a conclusion is invalid because it is, for example, based on research that has a highly contentious methodology. I'm not sure what evidence you are expecting anyone to link to when they make this sort of claim. I asked if you understood this and you ignored me.

Now perhaps you were actually referring to my earlier 'claims' about Janet's hypocrisy. I was addressing Janet not you and I don't see why I should repeat 'evidence' that has already been put to her. If you wanted clarification about this you could have asked. Instead you changed the subject and ludicrously accused me of ad hominem.

Since I haven't disagreed with Janet's argument about Micheal Gove I am struggling to see what sort of ad hominem you think I've committed. My comments were about her style of debating.

You began to backtrack and your complaint appeared to be about 'general criticism' about her person - criticising work is not criticising a person. However I will remember your personal standards about 'generalising' and expect you to live up to them.

Several things began to stand out here.

1. You made a 'claim' along the lines that Janet doesn't always 'cherrypick' yet didn't provide any evidence to support this claim. You were complaining about this earlier on - why didn't you provide evidence like you expect everyone else to?

2. My criticism of Janet was no worse than her criticism of Micheal Gove - yet you haven't accused Janet of 'ad hominem' - why not?

Moving on I pointed out that 'Critcising someones method of argument is not an ad hominem.' (unless perhaps you are using that criticism to dismiss the argument being made) and you claimed to have 'constructively disagreed with Janet's assessment of Micheal Gove'. I cannot find where you did this and once again you didn't provide any evidence to support your claim - before I start slinging dirt I usually have to decency to ask for clarification - where did you do this Rebecca?

You then changed tack again, generalised, and decided that you would ignore anything 'irrelevent' and 'abusive'. Relevency is, of course, an individual thing but perhaps you could show me where I have been abusive and therefore warranted such a comment?

Given all of this I am incredulous that, in your latest post, you seem to be presenting yourself as some kind of authority on 'posts that work'.

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 08:49

Perhaps you could provide evidence to prove your claim that Janet's contributions are illuminated by 'rigorous and robust evidence'.

I'll leave your personal abuse to Rebecca who I'm sure will want to remind you about does and doesn't constitute a 'working post'.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 09:04

Rebecca - thanks for the link about Cyberrhetoric. I like the idea that threads and posts are part of an ongoing conversation in which views are developed, challenged and refined. I also agree that it's necessary to provide links to evidence and if someone wishes to challenge the evidence then it's important to provide contradictory evidence. It's insufficient just to dismiss the former as being "poor" especially when the former is provided by reputable, respected organisations. If the methodology used by these organisations is found to be flawed then evidence which shows this is essential.

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 09:12

Janet the problem is that some of the sources that you link to do not have a methodology. If one is going to challenge the validity of a piece of evidence on the grounds that it doesn't have a methodology what sort of evidence are you expecting one to provide?

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 09:24

Apologies - this is beside the point.

Does anyone have any information about how this forum is moderated and how one would go about contacting the moderator to ask a question?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 09:55

It looks like it's moderated in action to me Jim (in other words things are discussed to exhaustion - until either issues are resolved or the different positions are clearly stated). This is more common these days. If someone starts posting spam or clearly inappropriate stuff someone gets in touch with them to try and resolve the issue. If, after clearly warnings, the inappropriate behaviour continues they get banned.

This is what I do (I moderated a massive forum - not this one). I've never actually had to ban anyone which is nice as they've always come to understand precisely what they need to do to convey any reasonable and reasonably relevant message.

Why - have you had any posts deleted? If so what were they about? Everything's published in my experience. This seems to be one few education forums in the UK where the agenda is not managed with inappropriate and heavy moderation. There are a few other good ones on Do you know of any more?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 09:56

moderate - not moderated sorry!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 10:08

Perhaps big and successful would have been more accurate than massive.

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 10:24

I've never had a problem before and I think it best to refrain from commenting on the nature of my post until this issue is resolved.

My experience of discussion forums is that the best moderators are professional and easily contacted - I think TES do a good job in a forum that isn't always easy. If there is a policy it is good practice to display that policy clearly.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 11:14

Now that's a very interesting comment! I wonder if that's where Gove and his team have been doing their research? That would explain a lot. Which particular sections of the TES forum do you read which have led you to this conclusions Jim?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 11:16

It looks like you need to go to the 'contact us' button on the menu bar and write about your concerns Jim.

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 12:00

I have already done so but thanks for the advice.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 12:04

Wasn't suggesting you are Jim. I just have an interest in all aspects of forum moderation and found your view particularly interesting.

I wan't trying to attack you by the way - just trying to get you to post in a way which could lead to constructive discussion about the decline in academy takeup. But the discussion has been interesting anyway so what the heck. :-)

Back on the topic
Did you or anyone else read my article on why the schools in Cumbria refused academy status despite the financial pressures to do so?
Any thoughts anyone? It's an interesting and detailed article.

Here's the link again

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 12:07

No problem. If you want to chat to me about forum moderation in general do feel free to get in touch - I'm really easy to find on and so on. Sorry I can't help more specifically about this forum.

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 11:58

I'm not quite sure what you are getting at here. Although I agree with him on a couple of points (not free schools or academies) I am not a supporter of Micheal Gove or the Conservatives.

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 12:00

Slowing down?

Last year Fiona posted that it would take 120 years to convert all schools to academy.
Now it is 30 years. So it is happening quicker than anyone imagined.

It seems that it is only poorly performing schools or schools with left wing governing bodies are not embracing the opportunity to convert.
It appears that such schools are not even consulting. N

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 12:05

Any thoughts on the article above Guest?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 13:08

Those schools deemed "poorly performing" will have academy conversion thrust upon them whether the school, governing body, pupils, parents and locals want academy status or not. And it is not just "poorly performing" schools that are turning down the chance to convert as Rebecca has shown. The article Rebecca highlighted about Cockermouth schools shows that there are some heads who are considering the effect on other schools if some schools convert.

In Lincolnshire, a Conservative county which retains selection, many schools have converted or are in the process of converting. Many of Lincolnshire's secondary modern schools will struggle to reach Gove's intended benchmark of 50% GCSE grades C and above. This leaves them open to enforced conversion. Lincolnshire has many small, rural schools and the Council has warned that it will not be able to support them if a large number of schools convert. Neither will the Council be able to maintain particular services. Lincolnshire's solution is to recommend that all schools opt out of its control. This has been foisted on Lincolnshire residents without consultation and little explanation.

It is pleasing to hear that in Cockermouth at least there are some heads who are considering other schools before deciding on academy conversion.


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