Academisation is an expensive failure

Department for Education figures out today show that academisation has been an expensive failure.

The Department for Education (DfE) has now published figures detailing the number of academy schools in England that had been transferred – or ‘rebrokered’ – between one academy trust and another over the last five years and how much this had cost the taxpayer.

These showed that over £31 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent by the Department rebrokering 935 academy schools between academy trusts.

This is a huge sum at a time when schools across England are making staff redundant and sending begging letters home to parents because they simply don’t have the funding they need.

Worse still, the proportion of academies that have moved trust over this time has increased – from 0.5% to 3.6% of all open academies in England – showing that academy trust failings are growing not diminishing.

The pupils and families at these rebrokered academies have been badly let down by a Government that has sold them a lie about the academy programme – claiming it is the only sure-fire way to secure school improvement.

Out of the 307 academy transfers that occurred in 2018-19 alone, 67 academies (22%) were transferred to a new trust due to sponsor closure; while 57 transfers (19%) were due to the academy being rebrokered because of poor performance. In the remainder – almost 60% of transfers – the academy trust itself chose to walk away from these schools.

In other words, the disruption to the education of children and young people in these academies has been the result of market failure. This is a scandal. Children and young people get just one chance at school and their education is too important to be left to the market. Successive Conservative Education Secretaries introduced and have promoted an education market in England since 2010. They should all hang their head in shame.

Time and again we have seen conclusive evidence of the failings of the academy programme.

In the last few weeks alone, published research and statistics have shown that:

  • The ‘middle tier’ oversight functions for academies by multi-academy trusts (MATs) cost 44% more than for maintained schools overseen by local authorities – at £167.05 per pupil compared with £115.17.
  • Teachers in academies earn up to 5% less than their counterparts in LA maintained schools and their conditions of service are worse.
  • Some MAT chief executives are on six-figure salaries with the top earner on over £400,0000 a year.
  • Schools which remain with their council are more likely to keep a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating than those which become an academy. Furthermore, prior to the 2016 legislation forcing ‘inadequate’ maintained schools to convert to academy status, a larger proportion of schools that remained with their LA (over 75%) improved to ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ compared with sponsor-led academies (59%).

Despite all the evidence the Conservative Government clings to its failed orthodoxy that academisation is best. And even when trusts fail their pupils and families so badly, the Government refuses to countenance allowing academies to return to local authority oversight – preferring instead to shuffle them from one academy trust to another, throwing good money after bad.

We will shortly have a new Prime Minister and I live in hope that either Mr Johnson or Mr Hunt will announce an end to the failed academy programme and instead commit to fully funding all schools and colleges at levels which enable them to provide a high-quality inclusive education for all their pupils within a framework of democratic oversight by local authorities.

The free market for education has been an abject failure. Only a radical change of direction can put things right.

Dr Mary Bousted is Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union.

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5 Responses to “Academisation is an expensive failure”

  1. Patrick Newman

    The main problem with schools is the cuts to budgets in real terms as evaluated by the IFS and the NAO. Academisation is not there to improve schools or education – it is to prepare the way for full privatisation of state secondary schooling with P&L accounts and fees levied on parents (or the DWP). In education terms, academisation does not work well.

  2. Dave Roberts

    D Roberts Esquire.
    City and Guilds Brickwork. 1970
    Full Tech Cert Building 1973
    Conversion course Surveying( Evenings) 1974-1977
    Qualified Chartered Surveyor 1980.
    Doing all right, stop whinging.
    All paid for by me and my family.

  3. Chester Draws

    The Left still clings to the idea that funding is the solution to any problem. Once you live in a rich society, that no longer is the case.

    Adding extra funding to public schools won’t improve them much at all. Because the problems are not caused by low funding. That is why teachers will take lower pay to work in an academy — because it is more often than not a much more pleasant environment to be in.

    Schools which remain with their council are more likely to keep a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating than those which become an academy.

    Well, yes, geniuses. That is because good schools don’t have the poor discipline and low expectations problems that academies are intended to solve. They can afford to stay as they are. For those schools that are currently failing, becoming an academy is at least a way out.

    In the last few weeks alone, published research and statistics have shown that:

    Leaving out anything to do with academic achievement. Schools don’t exist to give teachers higher pay, The pay of a person overseeing five schools is, unsurprisingly, higher than one overseeing one.

    What is not mentioned in your statistics is educational achievement. Do similar schools who become academies raise academic achievement and do their students prefer them? If they do, then they are working. If they don’t then they aren’t. The other statistics you raise are irrelevant — academic achievement and student safety are the measures for educational success. Do students move to academies rather than be taught at LA schools is a good proxy.

    Taking a poor LA maintained school and throwing more money never worked. Something new was needed. If the Left don’t like academies, then they need to come up with something else. Because the status quo is not effective.

  4. Tom Sacold

    Bog Standard Comps or Academies? I know what I’d prefer to send my children to.

    Academies were the one of the few successes of New Labour’s period in Government – State schools with proper local management.

  5. Patrick Newman

    LFF has become a social service for the intellectually disabled and the numerically primitive as exampled by the three above. Presumably, Mr Roberts went to a private school and clearly was hardly coping as a chartered surveyor as his ‘advancement’ appears to have halted about 40 years ago!

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