“Academisation has actually put the clock back 30 years to an era where schools were run centrally”

The rapid conversion of state schools to academies since 2010 has resulted in the majority of such schools having less freedom than before, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a leading education lawyer.

Almost a third of state schools have become academies since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition expanded the academies programme from 2010, with a stated aim to give schools more freedom. However, the policy has resulted in over 70% of academies having less freedom than they had before, as they are run by Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), and no longer exist as ‘autonomous’ schools unlike schools maintained by local authorities.

‘Freedoms’ of academies include not having to follow the national curriculum – potentially reducing educational opportunities for pupils – and not having to adhere to the national school teachers’ pay and conditions – raising concerns about teacher retention in maintained schools.

The financial accounts of academy trusts must be audited by external auditors, but the accounts themselves do not provide a detailed account of how (public) money is spent, in contrast to maintained schools. This opens the door to possible abuse of funds as has been highlighted in the press recently.

Professor Anne West of the Department of Social Policy at LSE said: “The current system is fragmented and opaque, raising major concerns regarding children’s educational opportunities, school autonomy and the use of public funds. We propose a number of ways in which transparency and accountability could be improved, including addressing pressing needs, such as academy trusts ‘divesting’ themselves of schools and the problems this creates for pupils, parents, teachers and local communities.”

Dr David Wolfe said: “Despite governments across the spectrum promoting academies to enhance school autonomy, academisation has actually put the clock back 30 years to an era where schools were run centrally. Our suggestions would bring much-needed transparency and return schools to their communities.”

You can download the LSE report here.

The Labour Party has proposed that, just as we have an NHS so we should have a National Education Service.  The first round of Public consultation on Policy has closed but the initial discussion document can be downloaded from here.

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