Supporting Families
Monday, 04 October 2010 13:02

Academies, Old and New, KOS, September 2010

As Kent diversifies into an increasingly splintered education provision, it is perhaps time to revisit the world of academies. It appears there are now four types. First up were the luxury model “old style” academies. These 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. Secondly, what promise to be the lean “old style” academies, whose rebuilds will be subject to the economies of the Autumn Spending Review. The original concept for these schools was that they were failing their children or were sited in socially deprived areas, and most fit part of that concept.

Then there are the “new style” academies, a very different animal although subject to the same regulations. Currently there is no indication how they will raise funds for major capital projects, so I do not anticipate major rebuilds (but current policy certainly has capacity to surprise). As distinct from the first two groups, the third group are judged “outstanding” by OFSTED, having been offered an exceedingly generous financial package to convert (although there is no evidence that they need such funds!). From October onwards any primary or secondary school can apply to become a fourth model academy, Special Schools being allowed in 2011.

Academies are independent of KCC in most respects although they obey the same Admissions Code. They own their premises and set their own terms and conditions for teachers (Heads of old style academies generally attract salaries of some £30,000 more than for other schools). For group three this will allow highly successful schools to lure teachers away from other schools whose needs are greater.

KCC now has 16 old style academies, and 17 outstanding schools on their way, making nearly a third of the secondary schools in the county.  The Authority appears to be moving to a policy of encouraging all secondary schools to go down this route, arguing that any additional resources from government should benefit all Kent secondary schools. Primary schools have far less infrastructure to support independence and so there are concerns here, although two standalone primaries are going through the process.

You will find a list of all existing and proposed academies on my website www.kentadvice.co.uk

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)? It is worthy of note that the Ombudsman has no role in academies. Any complaints go to the black hole that is the Department of Education.  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 two others that have seen greatly improved exam results this year. See my website to learn out which it is!!

In conclusion, the jury is still out and the next few years look very “exciting” in terms of school organisation.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:28

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