Your school is turning into an academy, what now?
This article was written by a guest writer, Declan Spinks, editor of the EduStaff blog.
In the last few weeks we have seen major developments in the nation’s plans for education. The headline is that the government are planning to turn every school into an academy by 2022, but what does this mean for those schools, teachers or teaching assistants and how will this effect students? Below we discussed the key changes you can expect to see and the concerns that have been raised by members of the education community.
Academisation will mean head teachers will have more control over what goes on in their school and how to spend their budget. So teachers can hope to see fairer pay, more say over their school’s approach to the curriculum and greater support in terms of training and continued professional development. Head teachers should understand more about the running of their school and how to get the most out of their staff than the workers from the local area.
On the other hand, academy schools can only be as good as the leaders who run it and, as this article from the Guardian shows, many of the teachers have found their school’s transition to academy status problematic. It is expected that changes in pay, increased working hours and massive changes to a school’s teaching ethos are hard developments to juggle and are likely to cause teething problems even for the best school leaders. From what teachers are saying it seems obvious that those leaders who make the smoothest transition use the new freedoms they have to ensure that teachers can benefit. Academies lengthening the school day, for example, should also provide additional support and extra time for PPA, which is something many academies are able to provide for their teachers. Despite the difficulties schools will undoubtedly face when becoming academies, they will also have the chance to rise to the new challenges and adapt quicker now they don’t have as much government restrictions, regulations and ‘red tape’ as they had previously.
Legally academies will have a lot more freedom to teach different subjects and take different approaches to teaching which in turn should encourage more creative, innovative lessons. However, the reality could be quite different. Despite this extra freedom schools are still restricted by their competitors and public opinion this means that the more vocational and less popular options may be avoided to the detriment of the students, as the school seeks to satisfy parents and gain places on national league tables. In addition, you must consider the amount of control multi-academy trusts schools can have on their schools. MATs will be opening and expanding in the new system and these chains of schools, who are owned and led by governors and CEOs, may mean we lose some of the individual focus of a head teacher who has complete control and first-hand knowledge of their specific school. Take funding for example, you can be sure that each head teacher will be competing to get as much funding from their MAT’s leaders as possible, so you can see how some of this decision will rely on the ability of a school’s head teacher to argue their case.
To receive funding under the new system all schools that are not considered Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ will need to be sponsored by private companies, trusts or charities. The plan with academies has always been to attract exciting, forward-thinking businesses who have no personal stake in education. However, the more academy schools we open the more sponsors we will need and this might mean schools are less selective about who they get sponsorship from. Writing in his article Building Trust, Mike Cameron describes how he feels that the regulations for who a sponsor can be are lacking clarity. He believes that there are not enough rules in place to ensure that trustee to trust financial transactions don’t happen, how funding systems need to be the same for all schools, and how there needs to be a better explanation over what happens to school’s land and assets. For example, it is unclear what happens to a school’s land when they become part of a MAT and if a school then fails and it is transferred to another trust what happens then? You can see how without clear rules and regulations schools could end up losing land or assets in the conversion as ownership changes.
To conclude it seems that although many people see giving schools and head teachers more power as a good thing, it is also obvious that there is a long way to go before the system can provide schools with the right level of freedom and support.
EduStaff are a specialist education recruitment consultancy who only focus on long-term, permanent recruitment for primary, secondary and SEN schools across the UK. They are also the recruitment partners of Premier Pathways, a new and unique graduate scheme that helps graduates get into teaching while offering them paid in-school experience.