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Editor Stephanie Broad: "Despite doubts about its effectiveness, conversion applications are growing"

Stand and deliver

Editor Stephanie Broad asks, can the government keep up with its ambitious growth of the academy movement?

Posted by Stephanie Broad | January 05, 2016 | People, policy, politics

Over 350 academies have opened in the UK since June 2015 – both converters and sponsored schools. While academisation offers greater autonomy, creativity and growth for a school, there remains doubt about how the Government’s plans to turn ‘every school into an academy’ will axiomatically bring about improvement across the board. 

In light of Ofsted’s recent Annual Report, Sir Michael Wilshaw reminded the sector that conversion “can only do so much” and that it does not “insulate you from decline”. 

But despite doubts about its effectiveness, conversion applications are growing – according to Government figures there were 48 applications in November compared to 22 in October. While schools are clearly starting to recognise the benefits of running themselves, approvals seem to be slowing down. Is the DfE fully prepared (and resourced) to handle their ambitious ‘1,000 free schools by 2020’ vision, or is, perhaps, the conversion process too complex to rush through?

Earlier in the year, Nicky Morgan claimed that ‘coasting’ schools would be converted into academies. School leaders’ unions such as NAHT quickly pointed out that there were no measures to address underperforming schools that were already academies – what happens then? 

Morgan has now announced amendments to the Education and Adoption Bill, which is currently before Parliament, which would apply the ‘coasting school’ measures to academies. Previously, Morgan’s approach to underperforming schools was to turn them into academies – the amendments will clarify what will happen when a school is already an academy, including significant improvement requirements and/or a change of sponsor. The DfE is said to have already issued 122 ‘warning notices’ to academies in this position.

Tell us about your experiences of conversion, life on the ‘other side’ or dealing with inspection and improvement – we’re always keen to hear your views!

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