Independent exclusive – claims emerge of bribes to persuade primary schools to convert

Janet Downs's picture
Today’s Independent carries a front page exclusive revealing claims that primary schools are receiving financial inducements to persuade them to convert to academy status.

The money is over-and-above the £25,000 given to schools to pay for legal and administrative during the conversion process.

Academy conversion has been more popular in secondary schools than in primaries - just over half of secondary schools are now academies. The main reason for conversion was a perception that they would receive more money and this triggered a dash for cash. But only 6% of primaries are academies.

The BBC revealed last year that the DfE was using intimidation to persuade primary schools to convert. Now there are claims that extra money will be given to primary schools that become academies. If the claims are true, is it a sign that the programme is stalling?

Criticism of the academies programme is rising and it isn’t just confined to those the Education Secretary Michael Gove calls “enemies of promise”. Academy conversion has been sold as the only way in which schools can raise performance but data from sponsored academies shows that they did no better than similar non-academies. The Academies Commission (2013) found that most things an academy can do, a maintained school can also do*. Some heads of academies in chains told the Commission that they were under more control from head office than they had experienced when their schools were maintained by the local authority. And last weekend came fresh claims that Gove was considering removing the charity status from academies so that they could become profit-making.

And now we’re hearing rumblings that parents in academies are not happy when the academy trust wants to make changes. Parents at the Charles Read Academy, Lincolnshire, are protesting against a move by West Grantham Academies Trust to close the school. Parents at Tudor Grange, Solihull, have launched a petition against plans to change the admission criteria of the non-faith school to give priority to pupils from CofE schools.

The DfE has already overspent £1 billion on the academies programme.  If the claims of bribes are true, then it is an unacceptable use of public money.  It's also a sign of increasing desperation.

*See faq above: The Academies Commission 2013: what did the Commission say?

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