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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