The Academy Conversion- by Franz Kafka (sort of)

Shane Rae's picture

The following is based on recent actual conversations I have had with a Headteacher and Governing Body (referred to here as Management Team-MT), who have announced that they want to convert their Outstanding primary to an academy within a new chain. Upon considering their position, I open with thus:

SR- There is no evidence that shows converting this Outstanding primary school to an academy will be of any academic or pastoral benefit to the children.
MT- It’s not about that.
SR- There are no additional funds that will come into the school coffers from this conversion.
MT- Yes, we know there is no financial gain.
SR- I don’t get it, what IS the reason for converting?
MT- It will be much cheaper to get the support we need!
SR- Really!? How much does this support cost now, and how much will it cost within the academy chain?
MT- We don’t currently get any support.
SR- Wow! No support at all?
MT- The LA doesn’t offer any support anymore.
SR- Um, they still do, I spoke to them today! Perhaps you could explain exactly what support you are looking for.
MT- Support that we can ONLY get with this specific academy chain.
SR- OK, and this is precisely..?
MT- We’re just going around in circles here.
SR- Indeed we are! Please could you specify what support you are referring to?
MT-There is no support offered by the LA.
SR- OK then, tell me what your specific support requirements are and I’ll get a few estimates from other providers for comparison.
MT- That’s the thing, we don’t know what specific support we need.
SR- Well, who have you talked to about this so far?
MT- Just this one academy chain.
SR- You’re joking right? You want to convert this Outstanding school, that has been state maintained for 165 years, and you have spoken to ONE academy chain?
MT- We don’t have a lot of time to look into all of this endlessly.
(SR takes deep breath)
SR- Ok our nearest neighbouring school, not even half a mile away, considered this same chain but decided not to convert. Have you spoken to them?
MT- No, each school is unique so their reasons aren’t relevant to us. However, there is another local school who have been singing the praises of this chain!
SR- Hang on, what happened to the uniqueness and irrelevance?
MT- THIS headteacher says she has never been so well supported, never ever!
SR- How long have they been in the chain?
MT- They converted at the end of last week.
SR- Right, I’m going to assume that’s not a joke. So the ‘support’ she has be getting is ‘support in converting to an academy within this chain’
MT- Yes, she says they’ve been amazing!
SR- There is no evidence that shows converting this Outstanding primary school to an academy will be of any academic or pastoral benefit to the children.

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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 14/10/2015 - 15:21

The Management Team may have cause to regret joining a multi-academy trust (MAT) - the 'support' can come with strings. Academies in MATs often find they've got less freedom than was the case when they were under the stewardship of the local authority.

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 08:29

This MT is operating under the fear-mongering of their LA-who insists that the school has no choice but to convert. The mysterious unnamed 'support' has not been clarified and therefore also cannot be quantified. This primary would be the only Outstanding school in a MAT of 14 other primaries- there is no secondary in the MAT.

The chain Admin itself openly says it has no 5 year plan, and profess this to be a 'good thing'. The MT has been given a schedule of services offered in the first year of conversion- and nothing beyond Year 1.

agov's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 09:52

Yes, there seems to be a feeling that schools should do it because the others will, so let's see if we can find something that we can pretend is a reason. The parents should make their views known before they become a total irrelevance.

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 10:04

This particular LA has written to every single school telling them that they 'expect' them all to convert. Some schools have used this to redouble their determination NOT to convert whilst others have interpreted this as they MUST convert.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 13:08

The LA may have cause to regret saying it expects its schools to become academies. Lincolnshire advised all its schools to convert early in Coalition days preferably with CfBT. Lincs had cause to regret this advice when West Grantham Academies Trust (WGAT) said it was going to close one of its small rural secondary academies, Charles Read Academy in the village of Corby Glen. No consultation - just an announcement. LCC said such arbitrary decisions made it difficult, if not impossible, to plan school place supply. They should perhaps have anticipated that.

Lincolnshire's preferred sponsor, CfBT, has since become a troubled chain. Ofsted said it had grown too quickly - CfBT has dumped one of its Lincs academies and a free school in Enfield (handed to CHAT, which has also hit problems).

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 10:10


If the MAT in question is ODST (Oxon+Bucks+Berks), I can say I have never heard a bad word spoken about it.

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 11:07

Thanks Barry. That may be useful to someone. How widely have you cast the net on that? Whom have you spoken to etc? Assuming you must have a child in that MAT?

I'm certainly not going to name names here but I can say that the MAT in question above was forensically investigated by a neighbouring school's MT. During the due diligence that this school's MT carried out, the MAT failed in every category, including support provision and financial risk.

agov's picture
Fri, 16/10/2015 - 14:19

For what it's worth, I've never (- well, not since parents were complaining about boys behaviour and girls looking like tarts about 15 years ago) heard a bad word spoken about 'my' school's local secondary school. Unless you include governors and headteachers from other schools who perhaps actually know what they are talking about.

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 13:12

The MAT in this case has grown from 0 to 14 schools in about 3 years. It claims that the DfE are encouraging it to expand further/rapidly.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 15/10/2015 - 13:24

The Academies Commission (2013) recommended that MATs shouldn't expand too rapidly especially since some of them didn't have a coherent school improvement plan. It was ignored - Gove had said in 2011 he wanted MATs to grow as quickly as possible. Since then, of course, we've had MATs, including CfBT and AET, censured for growing too fast. Nevertheless, swift expansion is still encouraged by the DfE.

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