(updated May 2013))
An academy is a school directly funded by the Department for Education and independent of direct control by local government in England. However local government Councils are responsible for the funding formulae used to allocate funds among sections of education within an authority. An Academy may receive additional support from personal or corporate sponsors, either financially or in kind, but must meet the same National Curriculum core subject requirements as other state schools and be subject to inspection by Ofsted.Academies are self-governing and most are constituted as registered charities or operated by other educational charities.Government policy is to encourage all schools to become academies. Those regarded as the stronger can choose how they are governed (see below); those that are perceived to be underperforming or have failed an OFSTED Inspection come under considerable government pressure to become sponsored academies taken over by stronger schools or by one of the many flourishing academy groups. They lease their own premises from government and set their own terms and conditions for teachers (Headteachers generally attracting considerably higher salaries than for other schools). This is allowing academies to attract teachers away from other schools whose needs may be greater. You will find the Department for Education's rationale for academies here, along with more details of operation.
In Kent and Medway, academies are generally independent of the local authorities in most respects, although a few are directly sponsored. However, they all required to obey the same Admissions Code and are members of the Kent or Medway co-ordinated admisisons scheme for all schools. As the two Local Authorities diversify into an increasingly splintered education provision under the academy programme, there are now many types of local model, as explained below.
Old Style Academies
First up are the “old style” secondary academies. The rationale for these was originally based on replacing failing schools in socially deprived urban areas, although this definition became stretched as government sought to increase the number with,, for example, the Knole Academy in Sevenoaks not qualifying on any of the three counts. The earliest academies have either been completely rebuilt or had plans approved to secure a rebuild on a very generous budget of the order of £30 million each. Those approved later have still been generously treated usually benefiting from a major rebuild, usually of £15 million or more. Most of these academies have sponsors who have been given control of the institution for a donation of the order of £2 million, waived in the case of charities or churches.
The old style academies are: Bishop of Rochester Academy, Chatham; Brompton Academy, Gillingham; Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone; Dover Christ Church Academy; The Duke of York's Royal Military School, Dover (fully boarding, previously Independent, with a tradition of admitting children of military families – unusually has vacancies and is all ability if you want something different in the state sector); Folkestone Academy (incorporating Folkestone Primary Academy); Isle of Sheppey Academy; The John Wallis C of E Academy Ashford (incorporating the previous Linden Grove Primary School, Ashford absorbed as part of an all-through school); The Knole Academy, Sevenoaks; Leigh Academy, Dartford; Longfield Academy, Dartford; Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate; Marsh Academy, Romney Marsh; New Line Learning Academy, Maidstone; Orchards Academy, Swanley; St Augustine Academy, Maidstone; Strood Academy; Skinners Kent Academy, Tunbridge Wells; Spires Academy, Canterbury; and Wilmington Academy, Dartford.
Newer academies fall into two groups: 'sponsored' and 'converter'. Both types of academy are able to bid of for capital developments in competition with other schools under two categories: where numbers of children are expanding in the area; and where the school buildings are identified as in need of improvement. In neither case is it yet clear by what criteria these funds are awarded. In my opinion certain academies attracted undue priority for their bids in the recent capital allocations. Now that regulations for expanding schools have been relaxed or abolished, some of these are rapidly growing.
The first type are the Sponsored Academies, who are taken over by more successful schools, academy chains or other organisations. There is no pattern for these schools, but the following list attempts to cover this type and its variations, along with the lead organisation. Currently government is putting pressure on Local Authorities and school governing bodies in an attempt (largely successful) to force them into academy partnerships and I expect many more local primary schools to appear in this list shortly. There is no public consultation for these conversions and it is not until the decision is announced that one can be sure this is happening. Often there is great secrecy about the process. There is an analysis of the work of two of the largest groups of Academies here.
Academies Enterprise Trust, comprising 30 secondary academies , 31 primary academies, and four special schools, stretching from Essex to the Isle of Wight, including five Maidstone primaries - Molehill Copse Primary school; Oaks Academy (previously Oak Trees Community School); St James the Great Academy (previously St James the Great Primary Community and Nursery School); Treetops Academy (previously Bell Wood Community Primary School). It is reported on the Anti Academy Alliance website that AET has been told by the DofE to pull out of sponsoring two additional Portsmouth schools and focus on raising standards in its existing academies.
The Federation of Canterbury High School and Canterbury Primary School.
Anglican Diocese of Canterbury: The John Wallis Church of England Academy, Ashford; St Laurence in Thanet Church of England Junior School; & The Isle of Sheppey Academy (in partnership with Dulwich College and Kent County Council).
Dover Federation of the Arts: based at Astor College for the Arts, incorporating Barton Junior School; Shatterlocks Infant school; Whitecliffs Primary College of the Arts; and associated with the Duke of York’s Royall Military School.
Fort Pitt Grammar School Trust, based on Fort Pitt Grammar School in Chatham; incorporating Robert Napier School; & Phoenix Junior Academy (previously Glencoe Junior School), both in Medway.
The Hayesbrook School Academy Trust, Tonbridge: incorporating High Weald Academy (previously Angley School). The Trust is attempting to incorporate Swan Valley School, Ebbsfleet.
Kemnal Academies Trust, based on the Kemnal Technology College in Bexley. This is a Trust of 12 secondary and 22 primary academies stretching from Essex to Hampshire. These include: Orchards Academy (previously Swanley Technology College); Rainham Academy (previously Rainham School for Girls), Medway; Dame Janet Primary Academy (previously Dame Janet Infant & Junior Schools), Drapers Mill Primary School, Margate; Newlands Primary, Northdown Primary & Salmestone Primary,all in Thanet; Horizon Primary School (Swanley); Pluckley Church of England Primary School; & Smarden Primary School.
The Leigh Academy Trust: based on Leigh Academy, Dartford incorporating Longfield Academy, and Wilmington Academy, along with York Road Junior Academy (previously York Road Junior School and Language Unit), Hartley Primary school and Milestone Special School, New Ash Green. This is also to manage the new University Technical College at Ebbsfleet.
Oasis Community Learning is part of the Oasis Trust (known as ‘Oasis’), a UK-based Christian registered charity founded by Reverend Steve Chalke in 1985, after being assistant minister at
REAch2: The company website states: “The structural vision for REAch2 is to build an Umbrella Trust of Multi-Academy Trusts (MAT)”. It is based in Hillyfield Academy, a SIX (!) form entry primary school in Walthamstow, growing to 1400 children under the age of eleven. REAch2 currently has 6 primary academies including Kemsley Primary & Milton Court Primary, both previously in Special Measures, the group taking over Dover Road Primary, Northfleet, in September which is also in Special Measures.
The RGS/AFS Thinking Schools Academy Trust is an equal partnership of The Rochester Grammar School and All Faiths' Children's Community School. It will also run a new primary academy in Chatham, to be built on land released as Bishop of Rochester Academy moves to a single site.
Rochester Diocesan Board of Education: Bishop of Rochester Academy, Chatham; St James Church of England Primary Academy, Isle of Grain.
Roger De Haan Charitable Trust: Folkestone Academy (all through 4-19) & The Marlowe Academy.
Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark: taking over the failed St Edmund's Catholic School, Dover. Overseeing the conversion of nearly all other Kent Catholic schools to become academies
Swale Academies Trust: based on Westlands school, Sittingbourne, incorporating Sittingbourne Community School and Meopham School, together with two primary schools - Regis Manor Community Primary School and Westlands Primary school.
Sturry Cof E Primary School, incorporating Hersden Village Primary School;
Temple Grove Schools Trust, partnered by Loughborough Federation, based in Lambeth). Partners with Haberdasher's Aske's Federation of Academies - three all age academies including Crayfrod Academy, (Temple Grove co-sponsors th eprimary departments) with two primary academies to come. Temple Grove Academy, Tunbridge Wells (previously Sherwood Park Community Primary school appears to be its first directly run academy, with an interesting Chairman of Governors – Chris McGovern, Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education
United Learning An educational charity, controlled by United Church Schools Trust, recently the subject of several Private Eye exposés. Runs 23 academies and 11 private schools, including the private Ashford School. Currently setting up the proposed Wye Free School.
Valley Invicta Academies Trust, Maidstone: incorporating Valley Park school & Invicta Grammar school. The school is also the named sponsor of the proposed and controversial Sevenoaks Grammar School satellite. The Chief Executive Officer of the Trust, Dr Phillip Limbert, is also Director of Education of the Clarendon Academies Trust, a potential academy chain which has a target of running 2000 schools. Is taking over Aylesford Primary School in September 2013.
The Village Academy, based on Selling Church of England Primary school: incorporating Lynsted and Norton Primary School & Milstead and Frinstead Church of England Primary school.
The Williamson Trust, based on Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester, incorporating the Hundred of Hoo School; Elaine Primary Academy, and High Halstow Primary school, all in Medway.
The Woodard Academies, part of the Woodard Schools group, independently standing Church of England Schools. This comprises 27 private preparatory and secondary schools, 14 affiliated state schools, and four academies, including St Augustine's Academy, Maidstone.
Then there are the converter academies, usually stand alone schools, but sometimes in Federations:
Secondary: The Abbey School, Faversham; Barton Court Grammar School, Canterbury; Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, Tunbridge Wells; Borden Grammar School, Castle Community College, Deal; Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs (in Federation with King Ethelbert's School, Westgate); Dartford Grammar School; Chatham House Grammar School, Ramsgate (in Federation with Clarendon House Grammar School); Cranbrook School; Folkestone School for Girls; Fulston Manor School, Sittingbourne; Gravesend Grammar School; The Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone; Hartsdown Technology College, Margate; Herne Bay High School; Highworth Grammar School, Ashford, in a chain with the Towers School, Kennington & Brockhill Park Performing Arts College, Hythe; Highsted Grammar School, Sittingbourne; Hillview School, Tonbridge; Mascalls School, Paddock Wood; The Maplesden Noakes School, Maidstone; Mayfield Grammar School (previously Gravesend Grammar School for Girls); The Norton Knatchbull School, Ashford; Oakwood Park Grammar School, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Faversham; Sandwich Technology School (in a chain with Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Tenterden); Saint George's Church of England School, Gravesend; Sir Roger Manwood's School Sandwich; Tonbridge Grammar School; Weald of Kent Grammar School, Tonbridge; Westlands School, Sittingbourne (in Federation); Wilmington Grammar School for Girls, in a chain with Wilmington Grammar School for Boys); ); Wrotham School.
Primary: Allington Primary School, Maidstone; Amherst Primary in Sevenoaks; Chiddingstone Primary School; Christ Church Cof E Primary School, Folkestone; Graveney Primary School (Faversham); Grove Park Junior School, Sittingbourne; Hampton Primary School, Herne Bay; Joydens Wood Infant School and Joydens Wood Junior School in a chain with Wilmington Primary School; Luddenham School, Faversham; Meopham Community Academy (previously Meopham Primary School), taking over Chantry School, Gravesend; St Eanswythe's CofE Primary School,Folkestone; St John's CofE Primary School, Maidstone; St Mary's CofE Primary School, Folkestone; St Stephen's Junior School, Canterbury Federated with Pilgrim's Way Primary School, Canterbury (academy application in progress); Sheldwich Primary School. Warden House Primary School, Deal; Wentworth Primary School, Dartford, West Malling Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School and Language Unit.
Other secondary academies in Medway: Chatham Grammar School for Boys; Chatham Grammar School for Girls; Greenacre School; Rainham Mark Grammar School; The Rochester Grammar School; The Thomas Aveling School in Rochester; and Walderslade Girls School.
Other primary academies in Medway: All Faiths' Children's Community Primary School, Strood; Chattenden Primary School; Cliffe Woods Primary School; Woodlands Primary School in Gillingham.
Converter Academy applications in progress
Other schools with applications in progress are: Holmesdale Technology College, Snodland (in Federation with The Malling School); The North School, Ashford; St Anselm's Catholic School, Canterbury; St Gregory's Catholic Comprehensive School, TW, St John's Catholic Comprehensive School, Gravesend; St Simon Stock Catholic School, Maidstone; Swan Valley Community School, Swanscombe (in Federation with The Hayesbrook school; Borough Green Primary School; Bromstone Primary School, Broadstairs; Chantry Primary School, Gravesham (Federated with Meopham Community Primary Academy); Garlinge Primary School and Nursery, Margate; Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE Primary School; Lady Boswell's Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, Sevenoaks; Minterne Community Primary School (Sittingbourne); Mundella Primary School, Folkestone; Riverhead Infants School; St Ethelbert's Catholic Primary School, Ramsgate; St Francis Catholic Primary School, Maidstone; St Gregory's Catholic Primary School,Margate; St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Northfleet; St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Broadstairs; St Richard’s Catholic Primary School in Dover.
This makes ( I think) a total of 72 Kent secondary schools out of 101 in progress or already having converted, and 15 in Medway out of 17, together with 74 Kent Primary Schools (several of which are now part of all through Academies) and one Kent Special School, and eight primary schools in Medway. You will find KCC's list here.
No new applications for May.
For me, the major concerns are the two tier financial structure being created and a lack of accountability. The threat to a failing school was that it would be closed and turned into an academy. What happens to a failing academy (they do exist and numbers will inevitably increase)? Against this, there is no doubt that academies are raising the status of schools, and some are notable successes. It is no coincidence that the most oversubscribed school in Kent and most successful on a number of counts is an academy which is now spreading its wings and oversees the working of three others that have seen greatly improved exam results this year. - It is the Leigh Academy in Dartford. The myth of higher standards can be seen from research quoted by the admittedly partisan Anti-Academies Alliance. Sadly this does not appear to create as many headlines as the vast pro-academy public relations exercise mounted by government amongst others.
You will find a Paper discussed by KCC in July 2010, that outlined the then situation here. The Paper asserts "Our detailed analysis explains that the Government appears intent on repeating one of the worst aspects of the previous Grant Maintained system and that academies will, at least initially, receive significant top up funding beyond the funding received by LA maintained schools, contrary to their publicly stated principles for academy funding that academies should receive broadly comparable funding to schools that choose to remain LA maintained".
The concern over lack of accountability sees parents unhappy with provision finding it very difficult or impossible to get satisfaction, for the local authority does not have responsibility for the internal running of Academies, and Department of Education processes can often appear impenetrable. The Local Government Ombudsman has no role in complaints about academies or appeals for admission or permanent exclusion, as they do not come under the aegis of local authorities. The correct route is via the DofE. You will find the procedure here. As yet I have limited experience of these - although it is growing and has been variable in outcome.
Parents who send their children to academies need to understand the issues, although for most it may well be the best or only option available and a very positive experience.