Close academies to place all schools on ‘level playing field’

A new EDSK report has claimed that the current academies programme should be closed down to put all schools on a ‘level playing field’.

The think tank, led by Tom Richmond, a former adviser to former Education Secretaries Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan, argues that the academies programme should be replaced with a single 'unified' school system based on the best current practice from across the sector.

While the report, Trust issues, criticises the ‘fragmented and incoherent’ education system and calls on the government to ‘set the explicit goal of bringing all state schools together again’, urging for better transparency around important decisions affecting the future of a local school.

Finding that most academies are operating under ‘complex management structures’ similar to those found in corporations, the paper criticises the ‘exorbitant pay’ of some academy chain bosses and blasted the ways in which academies are also more likely to refuse to accept vulnerable pupils.

It suggests all schools being brought into a single system, which would give headteachers autonomy, but would also require every school to have its own governing body and to be transparent about its finances and salaries over £60,000.

However, the report has faced scepticism from a number of educational unions, including the National Education Union, who suggest that the proposals amount to total academisation on the sly and implementing them would cause unnecessary upheaval. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, labelled the plans as a ‘clear attempt to breathe life into a dying [academies] programme’.

Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Academisation isn’t always the best or only solution. Staying under council control delivers better results for a school than those which convert to an academy. Not only do more schools keep a good or outstanding rating if they remain maintained, but a significantly greater proportion are being turned around from struggling or failing into highly performing and successful schools.

“This is why in the upcoming Spending Round, the government needs to give councils the powers to open new maintained schools where that is the local preference. It should also allow councils to intervene and improve all types of school found to be inadequate – regardless of whether it is a maintained school or academy.”

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