Only 40% of secondaries have converted, government figures show

Janet Downs's picture
40% of secondary schools have converted to academy status according to a House of Commons paper* dated 12 June 2013.

The largest number of conversions (primary and secondary), 300, was in August 2011. Only three months hit the 150 mark and a further three hit 100 (all conversions).

Government propaganda claims that around 50% of secondary schools are now academies. But this includes sponsored academies and a small number of secondary free schools. 239 sponsored academies were set up under Labour – around 182 more secondary schools have become sponsored academies since then. But we don’t know how many of the latter embraced sponsorship or had sponsorship imposed upon them.

So, are the figures for academy conversion as positive as the Government maintains? The 40% figure given in the briefing paper is rounded up – the actual proportion is 39%. That means 61% of English secondary schools are NOT converter academies.

Early converters were attracted by the perception of more money, a March 2012 survey found. But the cash that caused the dash is not likely to be sustained as school funding changes are introduced. In any case, academies were only supposed to receive enough extra money to be able to buy the services previously provided by local authorities.

Academy conversion is not proving as advantageous for some academies as they thought. The Academies Commission found “most things an academy can do, a maintained school can also do”. But maintained schools don’t have the extra administrative, legal and financial burdens that are borne by academies. And some heads of academies in chains said they had less control than when they were with their local authorities.

And here’s a cautionary tale: Charles Read Academy is a small secondary academy in the West Grantham Academies Trust (WGAT) chain. WGAT made a decision to close the school. Parents protested. So did Lincolnshire County Council which realized such arbitrary decisions by academy chains would make it impossible for the Council to manage the supply of school places. The school’s been saved – the Department for Education (DfE) “decided” not to shut it. Instead the DfE “invited“ another chain to take it over.

So, In the case of a chain wanting to close an academy the DfE makes the decision and will “invite” another chain to take over the threatened school of it decides the school should remain open.

If, as we learnt from the Independent yesterday, the DfE encourages for-profit companies to provide education, then there will be nothing stopping the DfE from handing academies over to these organizations.

Heads and governing bodies of secondary schools which have not yet converted may think twice when they hear the pitfalls of academy conversion. The grass is not always greener.


NOTES: There are 781 schools in the pipeline to convert to academy status according to the briefing paper. 62% are primaries, 30% secondaries, 6% special schools and 2% were Pupil Referral Units. 512 had had their conversion application approved.

Open sponsored academies spreadsheet downloadable here.

*House of Commons Library.  Briefing Paper: Converter Academies: Statistics SNSG/6233 dated 12 June 2013  Author: Paul Bolton.  The link didn't appear to be working at the time of posting this thread.  Neither did the link to Research Papers in the House of Commons Library.  I received error messages saying the "network or server may be down or congested".  You may have to retry later if the links still do not work.

UPDATE 4 July 2013.  The second paragraph has been amended - the figures related to ALL conversions not just secondary schools as previously implied.

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