Conversion of schools to academy status under scrutiny
May 4, 2018
Last week’s Schools Week highlighted delays in the conversion of underperforming schools to academy status. Freedom of Information requests by the paper found that no school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted had been converted to academy status within nine months after their inspection in at least 26 local authorities and 35 schools took longer than two years to convert.
A number of causes for delays were identified, including a lack of academy trusts suitable to sponsor schools and complications relating to the school premises (including where private finance initiative (PFI) contracts were in place). Schools with a religious character were particularly likely to take longer to convert. The paper also suggested that there had sometimes been a wait of up to a year after the inspection for regional schools commissioners (RSCs) to issue academy orders.
The Education and Adoption Act 2016 introduced a duty for the Secretary of State to issue academy orders to any maintained school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and discretionary powers to rebroker academies in the same circumstances. In practice, the responsibility for issuing academy orders is delegated to RSCs. As of 1 April 2018 there were 231 schools in the process of becoming a sponsored academy.
NGA does not agree that conversion to academy status is the only way to secure improvement in underperforming schools and has previously expressed concern about the availability of high quality sponsors to support these schools; however, an extended period of uncertainty after academy orders has been issued is unlikely to benefit staff or pupils.