The NUT opposes Academy status. Such status enables the private sector to govern schools and takes schools out of the maintained sector. The NUT opposes the transfer of publicly funded assets, school buildings and land into the hands of unaccountable sponsoring bodies. Sponsors are not required to have educational expertise or experience and some sponsors have been involved in the “cash/loans for honours” investigation, have pursued specific religious agendas or have used Academies to further their business interests. The governance structure of Academies allows sponsors to dominate the governing bodies to the detriment of a fair balance of other stakeholder governors.
The NUT opposes the ability of Academies’ to operate outside the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, with many Academies instituting their own pay and conditions. While the NUT has secured recognition and collective bargaining in a number of Academies, difficulties remain in others.
The NUT’s policy statement, ‘A Good Local School for Every Child and for Every Community’ and its campaigning document, ‘Academies: Looking Beyond the Spin: Why the NUT calls for a different approach’ advocates an end to the Academies programme and the return of Academies to their local authorities’ family of schools.
The Academies programme has been one of the most controversial of the Government’s policies and has stimulated opposition and campaigning at national and local levels. The NUT has been at the forefront of campaigning against Academies and, particularly through the Privatisation in Education Unit at NUT headquarters, has provided a wide range of campaigning materials as well as information on individual Academies and updates on the latest developments on the Academies programme.
Campaigning and other information on Academies is identified at the end of this section, together with details of the documents referred to.
Change of Direction
Since the new Government took over in the summer of 2007, there has been evidence of a change of emphasis on Academies, with a focus on collaboration between schools, rather than competition.
For instance, in the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ major policy document, ‘The Children’s Plan’, published in December 2007, the “choice and diversity” agenda has been replaced by “diversity and collaboration” and Academies have a lower profile than in previous Government publications.
The Schools Commissioner, Sir Bruce Liddington, whose role is to promote choice and diversity as set out in the Education and Inspections Act 2006, has been a strong advocate for local authorities having to demonstrate diversity through offering different categories of schools, particularly Academies and Trust schools. The Schools Commissioner, however, agrees that diversity of provision within local authorities can be demonstrated by schools having a range of specialisms and strengths. Further, the Schools Commissioner has agreed to facilitate better liaison between NUT regional offices and sponsors during negotiations over funding agreements.
In addition, in the autumn of 2007, the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit was asked to undertake a review of Academies “as confidential advice to Ministers”. While the outcome of this review is unlikely to be made public, the fact that it has been requested is significant.
For some time, local authorities have become more involved in the development of Academies, accelerated by the Building Schools for the Future programme and the need to re-appraise secondary education provision to implement curriculum developments, particularly the 14-19 diplomas. Several local authorities co-sponsor Academies, as do some universities, although business, religious and charitable organisations and individuals continue to lead the sponsorship of Academies.
For the purposes of this guidance document on school organisation and re-organisation, the main issues in relation to Academies involve school competitions and Federations.
The legislative changes requiring local authorities to hold competitions for new schools are outlined in Section D of this guidance document. These have important implications for Academies.
Competitions are not required if the proposal is to establish an Academy under regulations which enable the local authority and a preferred sponsor to apply for the establishment of an Academy directly to the Secretary of State. Where the local authority considers proposals for an Academy, it must consult the Secretary of State about whether he or she would be willing, in principle, to enter into a funding agreement with an Academy of the type proposed.
The NUT opposes local authorities taking the “preferred sponsor” route. Such a route prevents open consultation on the relative merits of different proposals for new schools. The NUT advises that the options set out in the section of this document entitled ‘The Academy, Trust, Aided and Community School Mix’ should be followed.
Federations involving Academy Status
On 16 January 2008, the DCSF issued guidance entitled, ‘Academies and Trusts: Opportunities for schools, sixth form and FE colleges’. This guidance develops the theme of collaboration between schools and colleges referred to in the Children’s Plan. It encourages successful schools and colleges to become involved in Academies and trusts “to contribute to the wider improvement of educational standards, by entering into long-term and clearly-structured relationships with other establishments”.
There is a strong emphasis on the benefits for successful schools of sponsoring or federating with an Academy or establishing a trust, including:
sharing their “educational DNA”;
staff development through a different learning environment;
sharing of expertise and best practice; and
opportunities for students to work together.
For FE and sixth form colleges, curriculum collaboration and the 14-19 diploma specialisms are important benefits.
Section 4 of the guidance sets out the DCSF’s latest definition of Academies. The role of the local authority is emphasised.
“They are not maintained by the local authority, but they are set up with its consent and collaborate closely with it and with other schools in the area”.
“The sponsors include educational foundations, universities, philanthropists, businesses, private school trusts and the faith communities, all with the backing of local authorities”.
The document reaffirms the Government’s commitment to establishing 400 Academies with the aim of 50 academies to be opened in each of the next three years. It also confirms that the £2 million sponsorship is not required for universities, colleges and schools.
The document sets out the options for successful maintained schools in relation to Academies as:
lead sponsorfor a new Academy, provided it is self-governing – foundation, trust, voluntary aided; has good recent results and OFSTED reports and “a number of other factors”. DCSF might find co-sponsors, but the school could be sole sponsor. Sponsor-lead schools can apply for a capacity grant of up to £300,000 over two years;
a co-sponsor, with another institution as lead sponsor, the capacity grant would not apply; and as
part of an Academy Federation under a shared Academy trust and governing body.
The Academy Federation, a hard federation, is being trialled by a number of successful schools under a pathfinder scheme launched in April 2007. Some capacity funding from the DCSF may be available to the stronger school in such arrangements, as well as possible external sponsors.
Case studies in the document feature the examples set out below.
Greensward College – sponsors a three-way Academy Federation with two other Essex schools under a single Academy trust, to open in September 2008. Under the Academy Federation pathfinder programme, each Academy will have its own governing body with an overall management board. The principal of Greensward will become also chief executive officer of the three schools.
Priory Federation of three Academies in Lincolnshire in 2008, created from five schools, including nursery/primary schools. The principal of the lead Priory Academy LSST will become the executive head of the three Academies.
The Ridings High School and King Edmund Community School in South Gloucestershire within the Federation Academy pathfinder project. It is proposed that the two schools would become two Academies under a single Federation with one overarching governing body and one executive principal.
Haberdasher Academy Federations: at present have two Academies, four independent schools, one grammar school, one primary school. There are proposals to include a further Academy in Bexley under the hard Federation model with a single governing body and single executive team, with Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College Academy as lead school. It is proposed to establish a second Federation in Shropshire lead by Haberdashers’ Adams Grammar School with Abraham Derby School becoming an academy in 2008.
Similar options are set out for sixth form and FE colleges and for trust school partnerships. The document gives further general information on the process of becoming an Academy, governance arrangements, which includes the statement: “As a good employer, we would expect academies to recognise staff associations”.
The NUT’s Position on the Above Proposals
Although the DCSF’s proposals appear to be a more positive development in the Academies programme, the key elements of Academies remain, including private sector involvement and Academies’ ability to set their own salaries and conditions of service.
It is difficult to see what real advantages there would be in such radical arrangements for both the “successful” school and the “less successful” school/s in terms of time commitment, workload and possible loss of identity. It is important, therefore, that the fullest consultation with the staff of both schools takes place at the earliest stages of such proposals.
When faced with proposals for Federations which involve a school or schools becoming Academies, therefore, the NUT would advise that the disadvantages of Academy status should be highlighted and other collaborative options promoted as alternatives.
Information within the ‘Federations’ and ‘Admissions’ sections of this document will also be helpful in these circumstances.
INFORMATION ON ACADEMIES
Campaign documents Academies: Looking Beyond the Spin - Why the NUT calls for a Different Approach This document sets out the main reasons for the Union’s opposition to the Government’s Academies initiative and calls for existing Academies to be re-integrated into the family of local authority schools. It can be accessed at:
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/pdf/Academies_2007_16pp.pdf Complete Academies Briefing This provides a detailed history of the Academies programme. It includes information on Academies which are open and any concerns the Union has regarding them. It also provides information on proposed Academies.
http://www.hearthcommunity.teachers.org.uk/node/1919 Academies Database The Academies database provides information on all Academies currently in operation, including the year they opened, sponsor, specialism and religious characteristics and admissions.
Model letters The NUT has prepared model letters which can be used in campaigning against Academy status and raising awareness of the implications of opening an Academy.
Academies: Letter to MPs
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/word/ACADEMIES-MPs_LETTER_LC.doc Information for parents about Academies
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/word/ACADEMIES_TO_PARENTS.doc Information for teachers about Academies
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/word/TEACHERS_ACADEMIES_FLYER.doc Information for governors about Academies
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/word/GOVERNORS_ACADEMIES_FLYER.doc Information for councillors about Academies
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/word/ACADINFO_TO_COUNCILLORS.doc Example Flyer for distribution at school and in the local community
http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/word/DO_YOU_CARE_ABOUT_LOCAL_ED.doc Privatisation Updates The monthly updates produced by the Privatisation Unit provide a summary and analysis of national and local developments on private sector involvement, particularly on Academies. Updates are available on Hearth at: http://www.hearthcommunity.teachers.org.uk/taxonomy_menu/13/160 Timeline The Timeline provides advice about the timeframe for campaigning against Academies.
The Great Academy Fraud, Francis Beckett The Great Academy Fraud, written by author and journalist Francis Beckett, was published in spring 2007. The book was sponsored by the Union and the Privatisation Unit was a key source of information for Francis Beckett. The Union’s Academies Task Group provided advice on content. The book exposed the ways companies and individuals had been persuaded to sponsor Academies and the cost of the programme.
Beckett F, The Great Academy Fraud, Continuum, 2007
The Anti-Academies Alliance The Anti-Academies Alliance is a campaigning organisation opposed to the Academies and Trust School programmes. The Alliance can be contacted at www.antiacademies.org.uk ‘A New Direction: A Review of the School Academies Programme’ The TUC has supported the campaign against the Academies programme. The report “A New Direction: A Review of the School Academies Programme” was commissioned by the TUC from the Children’s Services Network (CSN). It examines the shifts in Government policy on Academies, particularly the greater involvement of local authorities, evaluates the evidence on Academies and identifies ways in which the divisive elements of the programme should be neutralised and Academies be brought back within local authority families of schools.
A new direction: a review of the school academies programme, Trades Union Congress, July 2007
‘School admissions: Fair choice for parents and pupils’ This report was published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in June 2007. It shows that some schools were covertly selecting their pupils and that these were more likely to be schools which had authority over their own admissions. This document can accessed from the IPPR website at:
http://www.ippr.org/members/download.asp?f=%2Fecomm%2Ffiles%2Fschooladmissions%2Epdf Trough S and Brooks R, School admissions: Fair choice for parents and pupils, IPPR, June 2007
‘Academies and Trusts: Opportunities for schools, sixth-form and FE colleges’ This DCSF guidance, published in January 2008, contains details about the opportunities for long-term relationships with other establishments, including successful schools sponsoring or federating with lower performing schools. It can be accessed at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/pns/pnattach/20080009/1.pdf House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts Report The publication of the report into the above Select Committee’s enquiry into the Academies programme was published in October 2007. The report is critical of the DCSF’s failure to monitor the costs of the Academies programme and advises that in future the value for money case for an Academy might not be made. It recommends that the DCSF should reject proposals that put at risk the viability of local schools and colleges and where a less costly solution would provide better value for money.
Academies and New Schools Post 2006: Where now with choice and diversity? This report looks at the changes in the Academies programme, including the role of local authorities; universities; chains of sponsors; curriculum and exclusions.