Gove invites all schools to become academies
Greater freedom and independence were promised to primary and secondary schools today as Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, invited all schools to apply to become academies.
Writing to schools today, he announced the government will open up the academies programme to all schools including, for the first time, primary schools and special schools. He also pledged to make the process of becoming an academy quicker and less bureaucratic, removing local authority powers to block schools that want to become academies.
Schools that are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted will be fast tracked through the process.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the Academies Bill, which was introduced in the House of Lords today, the first tranche of these academies will open in September 2010 and schools that become academies will enjoy:
- freedom from local authority control
- the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff
- freedom from following the national curriculum
- greater control of their budget
- greater opportunities for formal collaboration with other public and private organisations
- freedom to change the length of terms and school days
- freedom to spend the money the local authority currently spends on their behalf.
These freedoms will be in addition to system-wide reductions in bureaucracy due to be announced shortly. This will shift power from central and local government back to heads and schools.
Michael Gove said:
The government is genuinely committed to giving schools greater freedoms. We trust teachers and headteachers to run their schools. We think headteachers know how to run their schools better than bureaucrats or politicians.
Many school leaders have already shown a keen interest in gaining academy freedoms. They want to use those powers to increase standards for all children and close the gap between the richest and the poorest.
Today I am inviting all schools to register their interest. It is right that they should be able to enjoy academy freedoms and I hope many will take up this offer.
Schools who wish to apply for academy status can now register their interest online and will receive further guidance on how the process works.
Further details of today’s changes will form part of the academies bill. Subject to parliamentary approval, the government will allow all maintained schools to apply to become an academy with schools rated outstanding being fast-tracked for approval by the Secretary of State. Other primary, secondary and special schools will be able to convert at a later stage with the final decision on which schools become academies resting with the Secretary of State.
Today’s announcement was welcomed by headteachers, academy sponsors and national education bodies.
Patricia Sowter, Headteacher of Cuckoo Hall Primary School, indicated her school would apply for academy freedoms. She said:
To achieve success in our school we have always been committed to effective and non-bureaucratic ways of working. I have always felt that successful schools should be given the option to adopt the same level of autonomy that comes with academy freedoms. These freedoms would allow Cuckoo Hall to continually build on its success and shape its own future by choosing our own curriculum to best meet the needs of our children.
Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation:
Academy freedoms for outstanding schools will remove bureaucratic shackles from headteachers and give them the scope and incentive to run their schools even more entrepreneurially for the benefit of children and their communities. This policy change is a major step forward in creating a world-class educational system.
Sally Coates, Principal of Burlington Danes Academy:
I welcome today’s announcement. I have led inner-city schools under local authority and academy control and I know that academies enjoy the freedom to put into practice fresh ideas to keep students motivated and genuinely enthused about learning. Academies have the autonomy to really respond to the needs of the local community context and strategically shape their offer to meet those needs.
Tom Clark, Executive Chairman of the Foundation, Aided Schools and Academies National Association (FASNA) said today:
FASNA have always said that to ensure a high-quality education for all pupils, headteachers need to have control over how they run their school; and importantly need to be free from local authority intervention. FASNA welcomes this initiative and is confident that many of our schools will be keen to apply for these freedoms.
Dr Elizabeth Sidwell CBE, CEO Haberdashers’ Federation:
At the Haberdashers’ Federation we value our academy freedoms very highly. Overall they encourage a sense of responsibility and allow our principals to take decisions and be accountable for these. The best heads flourish in this way. We enjoy self determination in the allocation of our resources and so get the best deals for our schools in all support services.
Freedom also means we can act promptly and apply resources to teaching and learning where it is most needed. For example, through efficiencies of scale we are able to give all our primary children free cooked lunches which benefits their health, social skills and most importantly their learning.
The freedom to set our own term and holiday dates means we are able to maximise learning and teaching time and put a two-week break in the long autumn term and start the academic year early.
Ian Foster, Chair of the Board - Academies Enterprise Trust:
It seemed to me so often in recent years that, with a few notable exceptions, the Academies programme provided failing schools with reward and opportunity whilst excluding the best schools from the freedoms and opportunities that becoming an academy offers. I am very pleased that the new policy addresses that whilst, at the same time, continuing to allow more challenged schools to become academies, under the control of successful sponsors or commissioned by parents. As a sponsor with a track record of success the Academies Enterprise Trust is looking forward to playing a proactive role in growing the academies network.
Sir Kevin Satchwell, Headmaster Thomas Telford School:
I believe that there will be considerable enthusiasm for this initiative. Outstanding schools by their very nature have outstanding heads who thrive on greater independence and autonomy. They deserve to be trusted and in my view will be able to do so much more to progress their own and other local schools who may need support. I have been afforded these premier conditions for many years and recognise how critical it has been to the success of Thomas Telford School and the family of schools that have grown from our independence.
ARK Schools said:
Having academy status has given ARK Schools the opportunity to design a curriculum and staffing model that is having real impact in delivering high achievement for disadvantaged pupils. ARK’s 3 academies with GCSE pupils achieved a weighted average annual increase in GCSE attainment of 7.8 percentage points since opening.
Notes to editors
The Secretary of State Michael Gove’s letter to schools - 26 May 2010 and his letter to outstanding schools - 26 May 2010.
Schools can register their interest in becoming an academy on DfE’s academies pages.
There are currently 203 academies open in 83 local authorities. Academies have seen a 5.0 percentage point increase in the proportion of pupils achieving at least 5 GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths (for those academies with results in 2008 and 2009), double the average national increase of 2.5 percentage points.
- More than a third of academies with GCSE results in 2009 have seen an increase of more than 15 percentage points (5 or more A* to C including English and mathematics) compared with the last results of the schools they replaced.