It’s nearly nine years since the Academies Act was propelled through Parliament with the speed usually reserved for emergency measures in times of national crisis.
This was supposed to inspire a mass conversion of English schools into academies – free from local authority ‘control’, we were told. Money was bunged at the project – the National Audit Office found £1b had been overspent in the early years of academization. Ministers, most of the media and a few high-profile foghorns hyped the superiority of academies at every opportunity.
It was hoped all schools would become academies.
But, nine years on, figures released yesterday show 60% of English schools remain in the stewardship – not ‘control’ – of the much-maligned local authorities. Shamefully, this 60%, the majority of English schools, are constantly derided as ‘council schools’ held up as less successful, less innovative and less shiny than academies.
Nearly six in ten of English schools are NOT academies. After nearly a decade of propaganda (more, if you count the deception about academies during the Labour years), persuasion (sometimes of the Don Corleone type) and pushing, the majority of English schools have not taken the academy route.
The secondary sector was the most enthusiastic about academization. 67.7% of English secondary schools are now academies. But nearly one-quarter (24.4%) of secondary schools are still LA-maintained*.
The primary sector, on the other hand, has approached academization with more caution. Nearly 70% remain with their LAs. That’s likely because primary schools are smaller and less likely to have the resources to cope as a stand-alone academy trust. Schools which join a multi-academy trust lose their separate legal identity and will only have as much autonomy as the MAT trustees will allow them. So much for the illusive promise of freedom.
*This is not an error. The missing 8% are secondary free schools, UTCs and studio schools.
THE DATA: 38% of English schools are converter or sponsored academies; 2.2% are free schools (including studio schools and UTCs), 59.8% are LA-maintained.
31.9% of English primary schools are converter or sponsored academies, 1% are free schools, 67.1% are LA maintained. 67.7% of English secondary schools are academies, 8% are free schools (including studio schools and UTCs), 24.4% are LA maintained.
The figures include all types of state-funded schools including special schools and alternative provision.