Academy Schools Voluntary or Compulsory Conversion and Audit

Academy Schools Voluntary or Compulsory Conversion and Audit

What are academies, how are they different from mainstream schools and why is the government so keen on them?

What is an academy?

Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority.

The day-to-day running of the school is with the head teacher or principal, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain.

These trusts and chains provide advice, support, expertise and a strategic overview.

They control their own admissions process and have more freedom than other schools to innovate.

How many are there?

Currently, 2075 out of 3381 secondary schools are academies, while 2440 of 16766 primary schools have academy status.

The number grew dramatically under the coalition government, from 203 in May 2010, and has continued under the present Conservative government.

Weren’t academies all about improving failing schools?

They were once. The policy, which originated under Labour, aimed to improve struggling schools, primarily in deprived areas.

And this continues under the sponsored-academy model, where failing schools are taken over and run by an academy trust.

But it has changed radically to embrace all types of schools – successful or otherwise.

All schools – primary as well as secondary – have been invited to convert to academy status, with priority being given to the best performers.

What is the future of “academisation”?

In the last Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced a forced academisation plan, under which all schools in England would have to convert to academies by 2020 or be committed to converting by 2022. This would have, in effect, ended the link between local authorities and schools that began in 1902.

However, the plans aroused strong criticism from teaching unions and others, including Conservative MPs and councillors, but the Department of Education remain committed to their original plan.

What are the benefits of academy status?

The government argues academies drive up standards by putting more power in the hands of head teachers over pay, length of the school day and term times.

They have more freedom to innovate and can opt out of the national curriculum.

It says they have been shown to improve twice as fast as other state schools. Others dispute that.

In the past, they have received £25,000 conversion costs from the Department for Education, and have topped their budgets by as much as 10%, receiving funds for support services that used to go to local council.

How can we help?

Peter Howard-Jones, Director of Corporate Finance and Audit at websters has personally overseen the conversion of a significant number of secondary schools in the Cambridge area. Peter has continued to act as auditor to these academy schools since the process began over 5 years ago and retains his involvement with all of them.

If you would like to discuss how websters might help in that process please email or telephone 01223 507080.

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