I have received lots of campaign emails about the Government’s plans to convert all schools into academies.
Over the last five years, the academies and free schools programmes have freed thousands of headteachers and leaders to drive improvement in their own schools and across the system. We can take the examples of the Holgate and National Secondary Schools in Hucknall, where improvements in academic standards have been clear for all to see since they became Academies just a few short years ago. That’s down to local autonomy and good leadership, with these schools being more able to prioritise the needs of their own students rather than having plans imposed from County Hall. Both of these schools are now rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted and are working towards ‘Excellent’ as part of a growing Academy Trust. They can now look to work with local Primary Schools too, in order to support the transition between primary and secondary education and benefit local children.
Autonomy and accountability come together in Academy Trusts, where leaders have more control over budgets and teachers’ pay, can take decisions they believe will improve standards and are held to account for the outcomes.
2015 results show that primary sponsored academies open for two years have improved their results, on average, by 10 percentage points since opening, more than double the rate of improvement in Local Authority maintained schools over the same period. 2015 GCSE results show that secondary converter academies are performing 7.2 percentage points above the national average, with 64.3 per cent of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs, including English and Maths.
I believe that the problems faced by our education system are in need of address, and previous attempts to bring about reform have not always brought about the intended result. I think that taking the control over education out of the hands of politically-controlled Local Authorities and putting it into the hands of parents and headteachers, is a good thing.
A system in which all state-funded schools are academies will deliver better results for all children through empowering great teachers and leaders with better leadership structures. The system will prioritise responsiveness and clear accountability over an arbitrary requirement for all schools in a local area to be run by the same body, regardless of its effectiveness. There will also be a new role for Local Authorities, who will move away from maintaining schools and focus on championing pupils and parents.
I will be sure to carefully monitor the progress of this policy. Whilst I do not accept the idea put forward in campaign emails that this constitutes a top-down approach to education reform, I do believe that reform should be based on evidence. The evidence to date supports a move to a system of academies, but should it become clear for any reason that the policy is not having the desired results I will be sure to raise concerns with colleagues at the highest level.