Are Academies the way forward for UK education
As some schools are underperforming, children’s education is at risk. Over the last few years we have seen a dramatic increase in state owned schools changing into academies. According to Sir Bruce Liddington, the former schools commissioner, the number of academies has risen From 200 to over 2000 and climbing over the last few years.
So what is an academy and what is all the fuss about?
Academies have a sponsor, it’s ran it like a business, generating profit. A sponsor could be an individual or business, current sponsors include faith groups, local authorities and educational institutions. Sponsors are required to input £2m into the funding of the academy, which used to be spent on building work etc. This money is now used more towards recruiting new and innovative approaches to help improve the performance of the academy.
Main stream schools are managed by the local authority, as academies are privately funded, they don’t have much connection with local authorities and can allocate funds as they see fit, not as how local authorities wish them to.
The sponsors of the academies are able to sit on the governing body for the school making executive, business decisions. In main stream schools this is not the case, the governing body is ran by parents and teachers and this could be perceived as a positive advantage for an academy, the school is ran and funded privately as a limited company and may have more structure. However, some people argue that academies are paying more attention to their business needs and not what is best for pupils.
But is all this change necessary, and is it good for future pupils?
Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of Reading University, said in an interview with Education Guardian: "In those areas of systematic failure, where all other options have failed, can you object to somebody coming in and trying something very different and making some profit out of it? “It could lead to better education for the kind of students who have been systematically failed for generations." Maybe he is right, underperforming schools are heavily relying on local authorities and putting school children’s education at risk. Why not let someone take over with a fresh approach and fresh ideas. Even though they are making it into a profitable business rather than a school, academies are performing well and achieving great exam results.
Breckland Middle School in Suffolk recently signed a £21m deal with Swedish for profit firm, Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES). Taking this school and making it into an academy was the only option, the school was majorly underperforming, children’s education was at risk and the local authorities were looking at closing the school. The deal has been viewed as a blessing by parents who now have their children in a school with £21m funding.
The former top civil servant in the Department for Education has said he sees "no principled objection" to profit-making companies taking over state schools and believes they will "probably" be allowed to do so eventually. This is certainly the case, with a rise of 1800 academies in the last few years this seems to b the route for future struggling schools.