Press release

New generation of academy sponsors driving school-to-school improvement

Hundreds of high-performing academies are now working with other schools to drive improvement through the system, new figures show.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Education Secretary Michael Gove said the growth of academy chains - including new lead sponsors - meant the best heads and teachers were collaborating more than ever before, benefiting thousands more pupils.

Statistics for the start of the new school year reveal that:

  • 1,660 schools are now in academy ‘chains’ - nearly double the 897 this time last year. Around 348 schools are leading these chains, working with others to raise standards
  • an increasing number of primary schools are joining chains or forming their own - 88% (211) of all primary academies that opened in the last 3 months
  • 3,304 schools are open as academies
  • almost two-thirds of all secondary schools are now either open as academies or in the pipeline to become academies

All these academies are now benefiting from working together, using the freedom and flexibility of academy status, to raise standards. Examples include:

  • headteachers moving across schools in the chain to gain, and pass on, experience and expertise
  • classroom teachers running school-based teacher-to-teacher training, sharing best practice across the chain
  • sharing of extra-curricular facilities, including in sports, drama, music and arts
  • sharing of central services, including HR, finance, catering and IT
  • procurement organised across chains, slashing costs and creating efficiencies

The leaders of these academy chains are either traditional, highly successful sponsors with outstanding track records or brilliant schools themselves. Some of these schools are leading small chains of just one or two neighbouring schools, or are developing larger networks in their communities.

This next generation of academy sponsors includes:

  • Bright Futures, based in Greater Manchester. The lead school is the outstanding Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, which leads a chain of 6 academies in Greater Manchester
  • Outwood Grange, based in Wakefield. The trust was formed from the success of Outwood Grange Academy, and now runs a chain of 9 academies in South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire
  • Greenwood Dale, based in Nottingham. The trust runs 21 academies across the Midlands, educating more than 9,000 pupils

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Our reforms mean our best teachers and leaders are taking charge and leading improvement work across the system.

Schools are collaborating on a scale that has never been witnessed before raising standards for pupils.

Overall there are now 3,304 academies in England - almost 15 times as many as in May 2010, when there were 203 academies, all of them sponsored.

Of these:

  • 2,446 are converter academies
  • 858 are sponsored - a four-fold rise since the 203 open in May 2003
  • 1,464 are primary academies (1,069 converters, 395 sponsored) - 9% of all primary schools in England
  • 1,736 are secondary academies (1,281 converters, 455 sponsored) - 52% of all secondary schools in England
  • 89 are special academies (81 converters, 8 sponsored)
  • 15 are pupil referral units (all converters)
  • 63% of all secondary schools are now open or in the academy or free school pipeline
  • 13% of all primary schools are now open or in the academy or free school pipeline


  • there are 153,000 teachers in academies - 23,000 (10%) in primary academies and 129,000 (56%) in secondary academies
  • there are 2.2 million pupils in academies - more than 400,000 (10%) in primary academies and more than 1.8 million (56%) in secondary academies

Notes to editors

  • the Department for Education defines a chain as a multi-academy trust (MAT) or ‘hard’ umbrella trust (UT) arrangement of 2 or more schools
  • latest academy numbers can be found on the department’s website
  • academies are publicly-funded independent schools that provide a first-class education and benefit from greater freedoms to innovate and raise standards. Academies set up to replace underperforming schools will generally have a sponsor. Sponsors come from a wide range of backgrounds including successful schools, businesses, universities, charities and faith bodies.

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Published 6 September 2013