Friday, 29 December 2017

Academies - the facts against conversion

“The academies programme is an expensive mess. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the government is burying its head in the sand. The academies programme has delivered an unstable system with a lack of parental involvement, inefficient and undemocratic”.
Kevin Courtney, NEU joint General Secretary, December 2017

FACT: Academy conversion does not benefit educational attainment in primary schools

“We have been unable to locate any evidence ... of a relationship between primary academy status and raised attainment ... We heard some evidence that the particular challenges for primary schools within the academy system are not sufficiently recognised. Concerns ranged from the low levels of representation of the primary sector on the new headteacher boards to fears that cross-sector MATs could view their primary schools merely as feeders for the more important secondary schools or, more broadly, might lack knowledge of the primary sector and its importance in its own right”.
Source: House of Commons Education Committee: 'Academies and free schools' (2015)

FACT: Academy conversion doesn’t benefit attainment for 'disadvantaged' pupils

“Too many chain sponsors, despite several years in charge of their schools, continue to struggle to improve the outcomes of their most disadvantaged students ... Disadvantaged pupils in sponsored academies did less well than those in all mainstream schools and in mainstream schools other than academies”.
Source: Sutton Trust: Chain Effects 2017: impact of academy chains on low-income students

FACT: Academy conversion does not benefit attainment in secondary schools

“Our principal finding through this extensive study is that academies do not provide an automatic solution to school improvement. As we demonstrate throughout this report, there is significant variation in performance at both different types of academies and Multi-Academy Trusts. ...There is no evidence that schools judged as good, satisfactory or inadequate ... improved their pupils' GCSE attainment as a result of the academy conversion”. 
Source: Education Policy Institute: 'Impact of academies on educational outcomes' (2017)

FACT: Your child is more likely to be taught by an unqualified teacher in an academy

Unqualified teachers in primary schools:
2.8% of teachers in local authority maintained schools
4.8% of teachers in academies
Unqualified teachers in secondary schools:
4.6% of teachers in local authority schools
6.6% of teachers in academies
Source: Department for Education Schools Workforce Statistics: trends and comparisons (2016)

FACT: Your child's teacher is more likely to leave to go to another school if it is an academy

Teachers leaving to go to other schools (on average):
9.7% primary teachers
8.2% secondary teachers
Local authority schools:
7.8% primary teachers
7.6% secondary teachers
Source: Department for Education Schools Workforce Statistics: trends and comparisons (2016)

FACT: Multi Academy Trusts are less accountable to parents

“We heard from numerous sources that the means by which local communities can hold their trust to account is less clear than in maintained school structures ... We were told by parents that MATs are not sufficiently accountable to their local community and they feel disconnected from decision making at trustee board level”.
Source: House of Commons Education Committee Report 'Multi-academy trusts' (2017)

FACT: Your child's teacher is likely to be paid less if they work in an academy (but senior management are more likely to earn more) 

Average teacher salary in primary schools:
£33,800 in local authority maintained schools (but £54,400 in the leadership group)
£32,600 in academies (but £54,600 in the leadership group)
Average teacher salary in secondary schools:
£37,300 in local authority maintained schools (but £63,100 in the leadership group)
£36,400 in academies (but £63,200 in the leadership group)
Source: Department for Education School Workforce Statistics SFR25/2017

FACT: Academies can set their own pay, terms and conditions for staff, threatening national agreements

“Where an academy converts from maintained school status, transferring staff are protected by TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment) arrangements.
When hiring new staff, or in the case of entirely new academies and free schools, academy trusts can determine their own pay, terms and conditions for staff, providing they comply with employment law and any relevant terms in their funding agreements”.
Source: House of Commons Briefing Paper 'FAQs: Academies and Free Schools' (2017)

FACT: Academy conversion won't stop budget cuts ( in fact, more academies are running up 'overspends' than Local Authority maintained schools )

Proportion of schools spending more than their income (2014-15)
● 44.1% primary
● 60.6% secondary
Local Authority schools:
● 32.7% primary
● 59.3% secondary
Source: National Audit Office report into risks to schools' financial sustainability (2016)

FACT: Academy Trusts criticised for excessive expenditure and making business links with relatives’ firms

"An investigation revealed that 40 chains had spent more than £1 million on executive expenses, including luxury hotels and first-class travel. More than half of the largest 50 chains pay their top bosses more than the prime minister's £143,000 salary".
Source: Schools Week 'Investigation reveals £1m expenses bill for academy bosses' (2016)

"Thousands of transactions are being made every year by academies to individuals or organisations with which senior staff have relationships. The number of potential conflicts of interest, in the form of "related-party transactions" at academy trusts has soared by 50 per cent in the space of a single year. Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts select committee, said: "Despite previous warnings, it seems that too many still think it's OK to do business with relatives or businesses with whom the staff or governors have personal connections. It's not acceptable. Schools aren't personal fiefdoms".
Source: TES 'Boom in controversial payments to related parties by academy trusts' (2017)

FACT: If you decide you've made a mistake in converting to join a Multi Academy Trust, too bad ! - you have lost control of your school

Q. 'Can an academy ever return to local authority control?'
A. There is no mechanism for an academy to return to local authority control. Academies that are deemed failing or underperforming may be transferred to another MAT or sponsor (known as re-brokering) or subject to other intervention from the relevant Regional Schools Commissioner'
Q. 'Can an academy unilaterally decide to leave a multi-academy trust, or MAT, once it's joined?'
A. 'There is currently no mechanism for a school that is part of a MAT to unilaterally decide to leave or transfer to another MAT'.
Source: House of Commons Briefing Paper 'FAQs: Academies and Free Schools' (2017)

FACT: Schools do NOT have to choose to become academies

"In March 2016, the Government said it would pass legislation to require all remaining maintained schools to convert to academy status by 2022 at the latest. The plan was met with criticism; in October 2016, Education Secretary Justine Greening said that the Government would not bring forward further legislation this Parliamentary session".
Source: House of Commons Briefing Paper 'FAQs: Academies and Free Schools' (2017)

FACT: School success in London has been based on partnership and support, not academisation

 “The Government should focus on cost-effective and proven school improvement initiatives, such as local partnerships and federations or larger scale interventions such as the City Challenge programme ... A 2014 National Audit Office report ... found informal interventions such as local support were more effective than academy conversion. In 2013, Professor Merryn Hutchings, lead author of the DfE's evaluation of the City Challenge programme, stated: "The evidence that the London Challenge was a successful approach to school improvement is overwhelming. It was also comparatively cheap; over three years the funding for City Challenge was £160 million, considerably cheaper than the £8.5 billion reportedly spent on the academies' programme over two years”.
Source: EduFacts: Academy Status, Pupil Attainment and School Improvement


FACT: Councils can develop federations instead of academies

“The purpose of the proposed Hackney Schools Group will be to maintain the continued improvement in educational performance and pupil outcomes in the Borough through the establishment of a 'school led' education system that is locally maintained and accountable ... using federation regulations to establish the schools group avoids the cost and distraction of academy conversion, including the significant transfer of land, staff and assets away from Council management. It will reduce the potentially serious risks which are posed by the piecemeal conversion of schools into academies and their absorption into a range of academy chains and smaller, unsustainable MATs”.

Source: Meeting of Hackney Council Cabinet 18.12.17: 'A New Direction for Hackney Schools' 

If you want to discuss further with the NEU about why we oppose academisation and/or ways to build the genuine support and partnership that schools need to succeed for our children and communities, get in touch with Martin Powell-Davies, London Regional Secretary, NUT Section, National Education Union via 

“Academy status, we were repeatedly told, was a mechanism for raising standards in schools. Multi-academy trusts, we were assured, were structures to ensure that individual academies did not work in isolation and so stronger schools could provide support to weaker counterparts. Regional schools commissioners, it was said, would hold the whole academy system to account … But it isn't happening. It hasn't worked. Instead, we have a chaotic education market where schools are transferred from one provider to another as if they were retail units. This is no way to run a school system - it has got to change”.
 Kevin Courtney, NEU joint General Secretary, November 2017

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