Academisation: it’s time for the final stage of reform

It has been nine years since David Hargreaves published his think pieces on the self-improving school system. The first paper starts with a quote from William Gibson writing in the Economist in 2004: “The future is already here: it is just not distributed very well.” Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts writes in Tes

One could argue that this perfectly describes England’s education system. England is in the middle of a half-reformed system. More than 50 per cent of children and young people are now educated in the academy sector. The future is here – it is groups of schools working together as single legal entity to improve the life chances of children. But this future is not well distributed – yet.

The 2016 White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere failed because it was wrong to propose “compulsory academisation” as the solution. The structure of the academy itself is not a panacea. It is the group of schools that has the capacity to enable a step change in education. Groups of schools working together in a legal entity whose sole purpose is education are able to embrace cutting-edge quality informed by the best research, almost unheard of 20 years ago.

Now is the time for the sector to step forward to lead the final stage of reform.

The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) is the national organisation and sector body – the voice of school trusts. We plan to develop a sector White Paper setting out the future shape of the education system and the next steps in the reform process.

So where is the evidence one might legitimately ask? Successive studies have not been able to demonstrate conclusively that standards in school trusts are rising faster than the maintained sector.

However, a recent statistical analysis done in 2018 by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER), suggests that pupils in “convertor” multi-academy trusts tend to do better than pupils in comparable standalone maintained schools. Although the difference is not very big, it is statistically significant for all outcome variables that were considered across both primary and secondary phases.

This is not the same for sponsor-led trusts. But of course, as the Sutton Trust report clearly acknowledges, most trusts face a greater level of challenge in terms of their intake than the maintained state school average, and some (the sponsor-led trusts) a very much greater level of challenge.

And it is worth noting that, at the end of 2017, only one in 10 sponsored predecessor schools were judged “good” or “outstanding” before they converted, compared with almost seven in 10 after they joined a trust, of those that had been inspected.

Read why Leora thinks academies are the future and why going back to local authorities is not an option in the full article Academisation: it’s time for the final stage of reform

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin


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Categories: Academies, Local authorities, Primary and Secondary.


  1. Pip

    Academy trusts will one day be looked back upon as the biggest financial scandal the government ever supported. How can paying a CEO £150k for 3 days work recruiting a PA, Operations manager, Project Manager, consultants as well as fitting their offices with the latest tech whilst their pupils are languishing using 10 year old PCs. SLT in those schools feel the added pressure of not only running a school but being inspected and scrutinised and micromanaged to the nth degree often with their purse strings being pulled by the MAT. If you want stress and money wasted join a MAT.

  2. In summarising educational evidence, John Hattie made an interesting observation. The things which make the most difference to educational outcomes for students are largely invisible to the non-expert: quality of explanation, links to prior knowledge, use of graphics etc. The things that non-experts think are most effective are things which are clearly visible: school uniform, coloured marking, academy status – but these are relatively less effective.
    The evidence is pretty straightforward: students learn more when teachers use the most effective methods. This could be home-schooling, private education, the local academy – the actual ownership/management is relatively unimportant if they don’t enable teachers to teach more effectively.
    The effectiveness of some academy trusts is not down to them being an academy! If you look closely you will see teachers doing more of the evidence-based things the research now reveals.

  3. Sub Rosa

    So the CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts wants all schools to be academies resulting in the near doubling of her empire. Brings immediately to mind that Mandy Rice-Davies quote . . . .

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