Budget 2016 - The Future of Schools
The question is no longer should we convert to academy status but when shall we convert?
In his recent budget speech, Chancellor George Osborne announced that all schools in England will become academies by 2020 or must have official plans to do so by 2022.
Mr Osborne pledged to “set schools free” from local bureaucracy so that under his timetable, schools will be required to become academies by 2020 or have an academy order in place committing them to change by 2022. Any schools that fail to do so would be forced to convert under new radical powers to be adopted by the government.
In a white paper launched on 17 March 2016, it was proposed that the vast majority of schools should work in multi-academy trusts (which are academy chains), allowing them to share resources, staff and expertise to continue driving up standards. Multi-academy trusts have different governance arrangements to single academy trusts as they are established to oversee and manage more than one academy.
The white paper also recommends the removal of the requirement “for academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards”. Some critics have expressed concerns that the voice of parents are being silenced and that the policing of governors is effectively being diminished.
There is inevitably opposition to the Chancellor’s announcement. Much is uncertain and many questions are still unanswered. We are yet to see the detail as to how this will be implemented in reality and whether or not any changes will be made to the current process and procedures adopted for the conversion of schools. It is also unclear how funding will work and whether the existing funding which is available to schools converting will be affected in any way.
One thing is certain however - schools that have not yet converted should consider their position sooner rather than later - the earlier the decision is made to convert, the more likely it will be for a school to be able to form or join a multi-academy trust of choice.
Find out more about the announcement in the Budget 2016 regarding the requirement for all schools to convert to academies.
Academies: The facts
- The academy status which was originally introduced by the Labour government focussed on under-performing schools but since 2010, this has changed radically to include a wide range of schools.
- Academies are independent and funded directly from the state, rather than through a local authority. These plans will shift accountability for the quality of schools from locally elected councils to eight Regional Schools Commissioners in England.
- The day-to-day running of an academy school is with the headteacher, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts. The trustees of the trust are responsible for management, administration and holding the headteacher to account.
- Currently, 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools are academies, while only 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools have academy status.
- Although the government argues academies drive up standards in education, there is mixed evidence as to whether or not this is the case.
- The announcement by the Chancellor does not apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where education is a devolved matter.