Get stuck in or carp from the sidelines?

There are signs of a shift in the debate about academy schools. away from arguing about the merits or otherwise of the government’s academies policy, towards a focus on seeking ways to get the best out of the options available.

In the face of the government’s push to force failing primary schools to become academies, the governing bodies of some of those schools, who would in an ideal world not want to become academies at all, are taking the more pragmatic approach that the interest of their school and its students is best served by them ‘working within the system’ and trying to shape the kind of academy their school will become.

It may not be the game they would choose to play but the game is not going to change and they realise that it would be better to play, rather than just carp from the sidelines.

By parking the argument about academies or not academies, and engaging in the debate about the way their school becomes an academy and its potential academy partners, governors can have a real influence on the future of their school.

And it can be a stark choice, with the DfE seeming to favour a one size fits all approach driven by their favoured academy sponsors.

The better-known academy sponsors impose consistent branding and standardised procedures on all schools in their chains – an approach that has all the hallmarks of a supermarket or retail chain. But this centralised approach runs counter to the way many schools aim to serve their local community and wish to retain their own character and ethos. For them the model of the specialist food market and cooperative offers a better example.

By setting out what matters to them and choosing a local school they would prefer to have as their sponsor, the Governors of a school under threat of forced academisation can have a real impact on the future direction and governance of their school – even if they will ultimately not have a direct role in it themselves.

Conversion update

By September 2012, a total of 2309 schools had converted to academies of which 1808 were converter schools and 501 sponsored.  The majority are secondary schools (1484) with 769 being primary and 56 special schools.

This means that nearly half of all secondary schools are now academies and 48% of the secondary school workforce are working under an academy structure.

Three quarters of academies are ‘converters’ – schools which have chosen to become academies.  Less than a quarter are ‘sponsored’ academies – schools that have been taken over by an academy chain.

The most up to date reports for 1 November 2012, show the total number of academies in England now stands at 2456.