Turning all schools into academies: what exactly is the point?

Fiona Millar, writing in the Guardian, says that with schools battling cuts, teacher shortages and crowded classrooms, the government should not spend the next three years on structural changes.

The recent education and adoption bill is done…  provisions included toughening up forced academy conversion and moving power from local authorities to the Department for Education and its lieutenants, the regional schools commissioners… 

…After almost six years…  there are still only about 5,500 academies and free schools. That is admittedly over 5,000 more than in 2010 but it leaves around 16,000 schools in the maintained sector.

… Moving schools from the maintained sector to a contractual relationship with the secretary of state has proved costly and cumbersome, often involving intensive legal negotiations over land and assets. In its first two years the academy budget overspent by £1bn.

Local councils have had to write off millions of pounds of their departing schools’ debts…

Some authorities have reportedly refused to shoulder this burden and are considering charging schools for the legal costs of conversion…

A recent Institute for Public Policy Research report into the academy legal framework discovered some governors even found their schools unwittingly stripped of independent status when they moved into chains where the trust, rather than the individual school, holds the contract with the DfE.

… this may not matter if the chain is doing a good job. But what if it is not? Schools are tied into chains…  the process of being “released” by the government is pricey. It was recently revealed that moving 16 underperforming academies to different sponsors cost the taxpayer £3m. Setting up thousands more schools in this way is neither efficient nor liberating. So what is the point?

It can’t be about standards. …evidence from analysis of exam results and Ofsted reports is clear: academy status is not a magic bullet for school improvement… 

Whatever the real reason, making this the centrepiece of government plans would seem extraordinary. Schools are battling with funding cuts, teacher shortages, overcrowded classrooms and onerous changes to assessment and accountability. Whether you look at exam results, widening GCSE gaps, increasingthe issue of diversity at Oxbridge or the continuing supremacy of private school pupils in the arts and professions, the Gove/Morgan social justice mission looks flimsier by the day…

More at Turning all schools into academies: what exactly is the point?


Fiona Millar is perplexed by the drive to focus converting schools into academies – what do you think the motivation behind it is?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Academies and Policy.


  1. Alan OSullivan

    Fiona’s report is wholly accurate and a relief to read especially given the known elements of unchecked corruption within regional academies that DfE is seemingly turning a blind eye to.

  2. Nairb1

    The point is to remove local authorities from any involvement in education and open the system up for profit. It’s an ideological not educational programme and so the consequences for pupils are well down the list of priorities.

  3. brighton118

    PompeyDog SchoolsImprove – Have visions of more CEO’s of MAT’s getting knighthoods & v large salaries. Horrendous.

  4. carol Elizabeth

    Nairb1 Absolutely, totally agree. It is nothing to do with providing a better quality of education, and in any case THEIR children won’t be affected!

  5. The ‘point’ was to pave the way for for-profit schools.  This was made clear in a Policy Exchange document ‘Blocking the Best’ published shortly before the 2010 election.  Gove was present at its launch and said if Serco wanted to run schools then he would let them.  http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/10/gove-is-in-favour-of-profit-making-companies-running-state-schools/%23sthash.hzb5uyax.dpuf

  6. live4literacy

    SchoolsImprove to profit off the public money that’s what. Pay teachers less. Hire non teachers… What did I miss?

  7. regcarter1

    SchoolsImprove I think the point is to get teachers as far away from political jingoism and do what they’re great at – teaching

  8. SophieEDaws11b

    SchoolsImprove Brilliant! Now children can be taught by unqualified teachers savings made there then! Forgive my sarcasm!

  9. clivetaylor915

    The point is to privatise education, so that all Posh chums who run agencies, chains, MATs etc can get rich quick.

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