Prior's Field September 2018

Academy Schools: what you need to know

Published by Isbi Schools on Monday 28th of September 2020 12:35:24 PM

More and more local schools are converting to academies - but what is an academy, and how are academies different from other schools?


An academy is an independent, state-funded school. They receive their funding directly from the government, and are run by an academy trust. This gives them more control over how money is spent and how things are done in the school than a traditional state funded school.


Academies were originally an incentive of the Labour government in 2000, with the aim of helping state schools that were struggling. Since 2010 the number of academies in the UK has risen significantly. It has been reported that the government wants all schools to convert into academies by 2022.


Academies are still inspected  by Ofsted, and are bound by the same rules regarding admissions and special education needs as other state funded schools.


The main difference between an academy and a traditional state funded school is that they do not have to follow the national curriculum. They can also set their own term times. They are not controlled by the local education authority in the way schools have been since the early twentieth century.


The introduction of academies has been controversial. If a school is judged as "inadequate” by Ofsted then it must become an academy, and many people do not agree with this rule. Originally introduced to help struggling schools, many schools that are performing well are now opting to become academies.


The government maintains that academies drive up standards because they give head teachers more power. With more freedom to innovate, the power to set pay and make changes to both the length of the school day and term times, head teachers are more able to make the changes they feel are necessary to improve the performance of their school.


Academy trusts can often take on several different schools. They are not-for-profit companies which employ the staff, and have trustees who are responsible for the performance of each school in the trust. Academies are encouraged to collaborate in this way, with many believing that schools can share best practises and support each other to drive up standards.


Some academies are supported by sponsors such as a business or university or perhaps a faith group or voluntary group. The sponsor will work with the academy trust to improve the performance of the school or schools.


Schools with an Ofsted rating lower than "outstanding” must have a sponsor, whereas those schools that are rated "outstanding” can form a board of trustees to sit on its governing body.


Those who are against academisation of schools are concerned that academies have less accountability than state schools. If a parent has a complaint about an academy, they must complain to the academy. The local authority does not have the power to investigate academies.


There is also a concern that allowing private companies to sponsor academies may cause problems - and that since academies are able to set higher rates of pay they may lure teachers away from local authority funded schools. 


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