The sponsored academies programme has been a huge success in transforming the fortunes of the weakest, most challenging schools.
There are currently 912 sponsored academies (alongside 2,532 converter academies). In May 2010, there were 203 academies, all of them sponsored.
Sponsors are appointed to take these struggling schools out of local authority control and turn them around.
The vast majority of schools which have become sponsored academies are now thriving thanks to the greater freedom afforded to them and the strong, new leadership of these sponsors.
GCSE results in sponsored secondary academies are improving far faster than in other secondary schools; their rate of improvement has exceeded that of other secondaries year on year for a decade
- the National Audit Office says academies have achieved rapid improvements in pupil attendance, reduced the number of NEETs, and shown a clear increase in performance compared to the schools they replaced
However, in the small number of cases where an academy is not performing well, ministers are clear that they will hold the trust to account.
In cases of sustained poor academic performance at an academy, ministers may issue a pre-warning notice to the relevant trust, demanding urgent action to bring about substantial improvements, or they will receive a warning notice. If improvement does not follow after that, further action - which could ultimately lead to a change of sponsor - can be taken. In cases where there are concerns about the performance of a number of a trust’s schools, the trust has been stopped from taking on new projects.
Since the start of the 2011 to 2012 academic year, pre-warning letters have been written to 25 academy trusts about 34 academies. In 2 cases, these letters have been followed up with warning notices. The list of notices is available to download.
No academy had been issued with a pre-warning letter or a warning notice before 2011.
Academies have largely responded extremely well to the challenge - on average at the 8 academies issued with a pre-warning notice in 2011 to 2012, the proportion of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs including English and maths at C or better improved by an average of 16 percentage points in 2012. The 2013 results will be reported in January but are expected to show another increase.
We expect all sponsors issued pre-warning letters to respond in similar fashion.
If not, and an academy continues to underperform, further action is taken. In 6 cases the Department for Education’s intervention has initiated a change of sponsor.
In cases of severe underperformance, the Secretary of State may issue a warning notice to an academy. This is an initial step in the intervention process which might lead to the Secretary of State appointing additional directors to an academy trust or local governing body if the warning notice is not complied with to the Secretary of State’s satisfaction within the specified period. The Secretary of State is required to warn the academy trust and academy that he may issue a warning notice, by first issuing a pre-warning letter.