What happens when there are concerns over the financial management of an academy?
The recent Public Accounts Select Committee report on Academies financial management proved embarrassing to the government. The report describes a system peppered with overspends and errors, but subject to little oversight. Millions of pounds were wasted on the rapidly growing academies programme because of over-complex and inefficient funding systems, according to the report. Financial mismanagement, of course, is by no means the preserve of academy schools, as recent scandals have shown.
Where a chain or multi-academy trust has failed to address financial weaknesses in its operation, a financial notice to improve can be issued, requiring the trust to take action to address the underlying cause(s) of its financial weaknesses. The financial notice to improve is a set of conditions that the Education Funding Agency (EFA) would require the trust to meet. Ultimately, if a chain or multi academy trust fails to address the financial weaknesses the Secretary of State for Education has intervention powers which are set out in the individual funding agreements, and in the most serious circumstances, include the ability to terminate the funding agreement. The Education Funding Agency has issued two financial notices to improve since May 2010 to academy trusts.
The academies financial handbook sets out the duties and obligations on academy trusts and this includes personal responsibility on the academy trusts accounting officer (each trust has to appoint an accounting officer) for ‘high standards of probity in the management of public funds’.
Source-Hansard 25 April 2013
Committee expresses concerns over poor cost controls and financial oversight
A Public Accounts Committee report on the Academies programme describes a system peppered with overspends and errors, but subject to little oversight.
Millions of pounds were wasted on England’s rapidly growing academies programme because of over-complex and inefficient funding systems, according to the Select Committee report.
It urges the Department for Education to tighten its financial grip on these privately run but state-funded schools.
Committee chairman Margaret Hodge, who has gained a reputation for her forthright attacks on government waste, said inefficient funding systems and poor cost control had driven up the cost of the programme.
“Of the £8.3 billion spent on academies from April 2010 to March 2012, some £1 billion was an additional cost which had to be met by diverting money from other departmental budgets.
“Some of this money had previously been earmarked to support schools struggling with difficult challenges and circumstances. £350 million of the extra £1 billion represented extra expenditure that was never recovered from local authorities.”
A DfE spokesman said the report failed to acknowledge “the significant progress that we have made in improving our systems.
“The academies programme has been a huge success. There are now almost 3,000 academy schools – more than 14 times as many as in May 2010 – with more than two million children now enjoying the benefits that academy status brings. The programme is proven to drive up standards. Sponsored academies are improving far faster than maintained schools.
“We make no apology for the fact that so many schools have opted to convert, and no apology for spending money on a programme that is proven to drive up standards and make long-term school improvements.
“The Department for Education has made significant savings in the last two-and-a-half years and has also set aside significant contingencies, which have been set against the growth in academies.”
He added that the costs of converting academies have already fallen by more than half per academy and that further savings were expected in the future.
Conclusions and recommendations
1. The value for money of the Academies Programme will ultimately depend on its impact on educational performance relative to the investment from the taxpayer. The Department has chosen to expand the Programme rapidly, incurring an additional cost of £1 billion since April 2010. While it is too early to assess the impact of the expansion on school performance, the Department will need to be able to demonstrate whether value for money has been achieved. It has yet to state how it will do so, or when. The Department should set out what outcomes it aims to achieve from the expansion of the Programme, and how and when it will demonstrate whether progress is on track and value for money has been achieved.
2. Inefficient funding systems and poor cost control have driven up the cost of the Programme. A large part of the £1 billion additional cost since April 2010 has been caused by the excessively complex and inefficient academy funding system which has reportedly led to overpayments and errors in payments to Academies There was around £350 million extra paid to Academies which was not recovered from local authorities. This system does not operate effectively alongside the local authority system, and makes it hard for the Department to prove that academies are not receiving more money than they should. The Department has not yet brought other types of cost growth under control, for example academy insurance. It should report back to us by the end of 2013-14 on how its funding reforms have reduced systemic problems such as the under-recovery of academy costs from local authorities, and on how far it has brought down other additional costs.
3. We are not yet satisfied that individual academies’ expenditure is sufficiently transparent to parents, local communities or Parliament. Despite some improvements, key information on what academies actually spend is still only available at trust, rather than individual academy, level. This limits the ability of parents to scrutinise how their child’s school is spending its money, and of communities to hold their local school to account. The Department must publish data showing school-level expenditure, including per-pupil costs, and with a level of detail comparable to that available for maintained schools, so that proper judgments can be made and comparisons drawn to assess value for money. The Department should state how it will make robust, line-by-line information on individual academies’ expenditure publicly available in the most cost-effective way.
4. New governance, compliance and oversight arrangements for academies remain vulnerable to failure. Some serious cases of governance failure and financial impropriety in academies have gone undetected by the Department’s monitoring, raising concerns that central government may be too distant to oversee individual academies effectively. Irregular expenditure by academies and gaps in the oversight framework led the Comptroller and Auditor General to qualify the 2011-12 accounts of the Department and the Young People’s Learning Agency. Academies’ compliance with mandatory monitoring is not good enough, and it is not yet clear how well revised audit arrangements will address these issues in future. The Department and the Education Funding Agency should review the operation of the new audit and oversight regime put in place this year, and assess whether it is reducing risks to regularity, propriety and good governance.
5. Forthcoming staff cuts at the Department and its agencies may threaten effective oversight as the Programme continues to expand. We are sceptical that the Department has sufficient resources to properly oversee the expanding Programme, especially as schools now joining are less high-performing and may require greater oversight and scrutiny. The Department should review the Programme’s central resource requirements, and the extent to which efficiency savings expected from new IT systems and assurance processes are being realised, and are sufficient to offset the need for further resources.
6. The Department has still not made completely clear the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of different organisations across the changing schools system. Roles previously carried out by local authorities around accountability, performance monitoring and intervention are unlikely to be operating consistently and effectively across different localities and academy structures. We are particularly concerned that interventions in failing academies may be delayed if the respective roles of central and local government, as well as academies and academy trusts, are not clear. The Department should clarify and properly communicate the roles and responsibilities of local authorities, academy sponsors, the Education Funding Agency, the Department, the Office of the Schools Commissioner and Ofsted regarding these aspects of the Programme.
Department for Education: Managing the expansion of the Academies Programme – Public Accounts Committee-April 2013
These are telling criticisms. They suggest the need to rethink the scrutiny and oversight of academies, while preserving the principle of school autonomy. Surveys suggest that around a third of converter schools opted for academy status for financial reasons. As part of the Budget Statement 2013, the Government announced that it would conduct ‘a review of school efficiency’. To inform that review, the government said ‘we have launched a call for evidence to learn more about how schools and academies make financial decisions and the techniques that they find particularly useful. We particularly want to hear your experience of how academies make financial decisions and your opinions/ideas of how academies can improve their efficiency.’ This suggests some concerns in government over the financial management in schools (not just academy schools by the way) and the additional risks that autonomy might bring. There is an on-going debate on the accountability of autonomous schools and whether or not another tier is required to ensure greater accountability, given the reduced role of local authorities.Academies are directly responsible of course to the Secretary of State, through individual funding agreements. Critics say that the Secretary of State , along with a slimmed down education department, cannot possibly hold these schools properly to account , even with Ofsteds support.
Too early to say?
The new duty on schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance only began in September 2012 . The government believes that it important that sufficient time is allowed for the duty to bed in before any firm conclusions are drawn about the effectiveness of the new arrangements. Lord Nash recently indicated in the Lords (22 April) that ‘We are evaluating the impact of the new duty in a range of formal and informal ways.’
The Government have also commissioned Ofsted to carry out a thematic review of careers guidance, which will report this summer.
In addition, according to Lord Nash, the government is ‘publishing education destination measures to show the percentage of students progressing to further education or training in a school, further education or sixth form college, apprenticeship, employment or higher education institution. The measures provide us with evidence of how effective schools are in supporting pupils to move successfully into the next phase or their education or into sustainable work, including through the provision of independent careers guidance.’
Ministers and officials meet and correspond regularly with a range of stakeholders on issues relating to the delivery of careers provision in schools, says Lord Nash, which is true, but Ministers are not taking on board what stakeholders and the experts are telling them. No independent report from a reputable source on government reforms to careers advice and guidance in schools has endorsed government policy in this area and international evidence suggests that school based advice is the least effective (see the research from Professor Tony Watts and OECD). There are grave concerns too that only limited access to face to face advice is being offered to pupils which may have a negative effect on the social mobility, access, skills and inclusion agendas. Evidence suggests that the most appropriate form of advice for disadvantaged pupils is face to face advice from an independent fully qualified professional.
The government defends its policy by saying that it trusts in school autonomy. Schools themselves must make these decisions. But schools are not as autonomous as the government would have us believe. The government through its individual funding agreements with academies, for example, prescribes what schools have to do in certain areas . And if schools believe that they are autonomous when it comes to the way they use their extra funding for disadvantaged pupils, through the pupil premium, then they ought to look very carefully at recent speeches from the schools minister, David Laws and Sir Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted.
Lord Nash is confident that the government has detailed enough evidence ‘relating to the effectiveness of school-based careers guidance to inform future improvements in the quality of provision,’ while concurrently telling us that there is not yet enough evidence to gauge whether the new school- based service has bedded in. You dont need to be a rocket scientist to work out that schools, under budgetary pressure, will go for, the most part, for the cheapest option, and that is not face to face advice.
It will be particularly interesting to see what Ofsted has to say in its thematic review. However, there are no plans to make a specific graded judgement on the quality of careers guidance in respect of the school inspection framework and the common inspection framework.
Ofsted currently has no explicit powers to inspect academy chains
But much will be expected from Chains
Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Select Committee recently (13 February) that he thinks Ofsted should have powers to inspect Academy chains . He also believes the DfE has accepted the need for this. Indeed he doesn’t see why Academy chains shouldn’t be subject to some sort of performance table as LAs are. Wilshaw said “We should inspect academy chains as well to make sure it’s equitable with LAs. I’ve made that clear to the Secretary of State and it’s been accepted”
David Laws, the schools Minister of State, in a PQ on 10 April, said ‘Ofsted does not have an explicit power to inspect groups to which academies belong but has a duty (section 5 of the Education Act 2005) to inspect individual schools and a power (section 8 of the Education Act 2005) to inspect individual schools outside of normal inspection schedules. Ofsted may therefore take a view on the support and challenge provided by an overarching body during an individual school inspection.’
In short, academy chains will have to demonstrate in future that they add value in educational terms. It should also be remembered that Ofsted will, in future, be looking carefully at how schools narrow the achievement gap. In his 5 March 2013, speech David Laws said “Ofsted is also doing much more to hold schools to account for closing the attainment gaps. Solid overall attainment is no longer enough to secure a “Good” or “Outstanding” classification, if there are large performance gaps. The Chief Inspector for Schools and I both agree that a school simply cannot be regarded as “Outstanding” if it is failing its disadvantaged pupils, and he will look at this when he next revises the inspection framework.”
Balance of evidence finds Academies have only small beneficial effects on pupil performance
The latest research from Stephen Machin and Olma Silva from the Centre for Economic Performance asks two basic questions – does school autonomy work? And does it offer scope to improve the lot of disadvantaged students ie those in the lower tail of the education distribution? Their conclusion is probably not, or at least not in England . They write ‘ Whilst there is a paucity of robust and coherent evidence to draw upon, it does not seem unreasonable to say that, on balance, the evidence that does exist at best shows only small beneficial effects on overall pupil performance and very little consistent evidence of improvements for tail students.’
They find little evidence that academies up to 2009, helped pupils in the bottom 10% and 20% of the ability distribution. Furthermore, they find little evidence that late converters (2008 and 2009) had any beneficial effects on pupils of any ability. The authors conclude their research by comparing the experience of UK academies to that of US charter schools and Swedish free schools, and by providing some insights into the reasons why UK academies did not serve ‘the tail’ as is the case for some US charter schools.(the implication here is that charter schools because they have a performance contract ( ie the charter) are held more directly accountable for performance than are academy schools)
In conclusion the authors say ‘ it may be that in the longer run the best academies will flourish and spread their practices across the education market in a tide that lifts all boats and so raises the achievement of pupils of all abilities. However, in order to guarantee that these more autonomous institutions can make a difference for the tail, new ‘rules of the game’ should be designed to make sure that schools have incentives to focus on the most disadvantaged student and, at the same time, are held accountable for their improvements.’
School Structure, School Autonomy and the Tail Stephen Machin and Olmo Silva-Centre for Economic Performance- March 2013
Note. The new Pupil Premium is supposed to provide an incentive for schools to target the most disadvantaged pupils and to close the achievement gap ,although the challenge is to use this extra money on interventions that work. One reliable source tells me that technology companies are seeking to persuade schools that the Pupil Premium is best invested in new computers and education software, although I can find no evidence to back the claim that computers improve the performance of the most disadvantaged pupils.Tackling the long tail of underachievers remains the biggest challenge in education. One hopes and trusts that Ofsted will keep a close eye on how schools use these extra funds.
Strong statistically significant results for KIPP students that are better than their peers
As of the 2012–2013 school year, 125 KIPP schools are in operation in 20 different states and the District of Columbia (DC). Ultimately, KIPP’s goal is to prepare students to enrol and succeed in college.
KIPPs approach is different. It is particularly keen on structured, ‘meaningful’ approaches to character development in its schools This is rooted in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman (Universityof Pennsylvania) and Dr. Chris Peterson (University of Michigan) that identifies 24 character strengths as leading to engaged, meaningful, and purposeful lives. Its not just about academic attainment. Resilience and character matter even more, if students are to succeed in education and life.
There is a research partnership between KIPP NYC and Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), KIPP which informs the focus on seven highly predictive strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. They have integrated their own experiences as teachers with the research of Seligman, Peterson, and Duckworth to create a road map for the development of each strength. So KIPP schools seek to see how they can integrate a more structured and measurable approach to character development.
Prior research has suggested that KIPP schools have positive impacts on student achievement, but most of the studies have included only a few KIPP schools or have had methodological limitations.
This is the second report of a national evaluation of KIPP middle schools being conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The evaluation uses ‘experimental and quasi-experimental methods to produce rigorous and comprehensive evidence on the effects of KIPP middle schools across the country. The study’s first report, released in 2010, described strong positive achievement impacts in maths and reading for the 22 KIPP middle schools for which data were available at the time. This most recent study, conducted by Mathematica, is the most rigorous research yet on KIPP schools and shows that the Knowledge Is Power Program, provides a significant learning boost to middle school students in multiple subjects. It also found that while KIPP serves more low-income students than public school peers, it serves fewer special education students and English language learners. The report states ‘The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial. KIPP impact estimates are consistently positive across the four academic subjects examined, in each of the first four years after enrolment in a KIPP school, and for all measurable student subgroups’. Three years after students enroll in KIPP schools, they had 11 more months of maths knowledge than their peers, according to the study. The research showed KIPP students had eight more months of reading knowledge, 14 more months of science knowledge, and 11 more months of social studies knowledge. Charter schools are publicly funded, but can be privately run. KIPP is one of the best known chains. KIPP schools often feature a longer school day, carefully selected teachers, a strict discipline code, parental contract, and teachers available to parents after school hours. The Mathematica study accounted for the common critique that KIPP’s results are skewed because the school attracts the kids of highly-motivated parents, said Philip Gleason, who directed the research. In 13 of the 43 schools Mathematica investigated, the firm compared KIPP students with children who entered the KIPP lottery, but did not receive slots in KIPP schools. The researchers said the positive results held steady for the KIPP students. The study did find though that KIPP’s ‘behavioural’ modifications contributed to academic performance. KIPP schools that reported a “comprehensive” approach toward behaviour saw greater positive effects than schools that did not. But ‘KIPP has no statistically significant effect on a variety of measures of student attitudes that may be related to long-run academic success. The estimated KIPP impacts on indices of student-reported self-control, academic self-concept, school engagement, effort/persistence in school, and educational aspirations are not statistically significant.’ KIPP schools that had a longer than average school day had smaller positive effects on student performance. The report says this might be because the KIPP schools with longer days than others often focused their extended hours on non-academic areas. KIPP students do from 35 minutes to 53 minutes more nightly homework than their peers, yet reported they were more satisfied with school than peers, according to the study.
KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes Final Report- February 27, 2013- Christina Clark Tuttle Brian Gill Philip Gleason Virginia Knechtel Ira Nichols-Barrer Alexandra Resch
Charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of public education, taking root in most U.S. states, thanks to a big push by the education reform lobby and the federal government’s ’Race to the Top’ competition. One of the defining features of Charter schools is that they operate on the basis of a ‘charter’, i.e. a performance contract granted for three to five years, defining the school’s mission and goals, as well as the type of students it aims to attract. Charter schools are then held accountable to their sponsor (for example a local school board), which assesses whether these stated aims have been achieved and – if not – eventually revokes the charter.
New book argues for proper competition and incentives to improve quality within the education system
Gabriel Sahlgren, the head of research at the pro-market CMRE think tank, launched his new book ‘ Incentivising Excellence: school choice and education quality’ this week. He argues that there is much evidence that competition works in education but that when politicians introduce competition to schools systems it is always limited and hedged and rarely has meaningful incentives in place to improve outcomes.Certain conditions have to exist before competition can work to deliver improved outcomes. These conditions are often ignored or exist only in part. More often than not incentives are unrelated to quality . Vouchers can and do work but they must be differentiated and well targeted in order, for example, to help disadvantaged pupils. There is much evidence that autonomy works but it must be embedded within a high quality accountability framework. He wants competition between schools but collaboration between teachers . He said there is evidence that the initial academies have improved outcomes but overall progress has not ,to date ,been particularly significant, partly because academies have limited autonomy and partly because of limited incentives within the system.Failing schools dont close and outstanding schools rarely expand to meet demand. Profit making schools are important to drive systemic improvement. There is little evidence that Swedish reform would successfully have increased competition and educational attainment without the profit motive. This is something the UK government should learn from he says. Sahlgren noted that Sweden’s recent relative decline in Pisa ratings has nothing to do with introducing competition. Indeed competition has actually ensured that Swedens decline is less than it would otherwise have been. Sweden’s problem is that it has very weak accountability measures and poor on-going information on schools and student performance, compounded by changes in teaching practice that focus more on group teaching and learning than the needs of individual learners.
Sahlgren wants, among other things , to see a major pilot for vouchers, as well as profit making schools operating within the state system. Parents could be given a voucher for the cost of their childs education in a state school ie just over £5,200 pa in a secondary school (£4,100 pa- Primary). If parents shop around then some schools may fail but that is a price that has to be paid if competition is to benefit the system overall.
An innovative way of financing education is via cash transfers to schools based on enrolments or by providing cash to families to purchase schooling – in other words- through vouchers. It is often assumed that those who promote vouchers are from the libertarian right. Some may be, of course, but there are many on the left of the political spectrum who like the idea of targeted vouchers, specifically to help the most disadvantaged pupils to gain access to good public schools. It is often forgotten that in the USA one major vouchers supporter is Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, who was a reformist chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010.
The Academies Act 2010 granted academy trusts exempt charity status, making them exempt from registration with and primary regulation by the Charity Commission, from 1 August 2011. The definition of an exempt charity is one that is ‘ not regulated by and cannot register with, the Charity Commission.’ So, they have this status because they are regulated by some other body. The Secretary of State for Education is now the principal regulator of academies and oversees their compliance with both charity and education law. But the education secretary has handed over the role of funding distribution and compliance for academies to the Education Funding Agency, which is an executive agency of the DFE. The Academy Trust signs an agreement (The Funding Agreement) with the Secretary of State , and so is accountable to the Secretary of State, not the local authority.Indeed independence from local authority control and bureaucracy has been regarded as one of the attractions of academy status.
But what happens if an academy, autonomous from the LA, is under performing or failing? This is an area where local authorities in the past have played an important role, (some, of course, more effectual than others), in spotting early potential problems.
Elizabeth Truss MP, the junior education minister, made it clear recently in a Commons question that ’ it is not the role of local authorities (LAs) to intervene in underperforming academies. Academies are autonomous from LAs and their performance is a matter for the Department through the Office of the Schools Commissioner. If a local authority (LA) has concerns about an individual academy, we expect the LA to raise these concerns with the Academy Trust in first instance. If the LA feels that the Academy Trust is failing to take sufficient action concerns can be raised with Ofsted or the Secretary of State.’
Two questions then arise-if LAs no longer have the powers or budget to oversee academies, how are they, within an autonomous school system , supposed to spot potential problems with schools? And who, apart from Ofsted, is there to fill this accountability gap?
The difficulty in giving a straight answer to both these questions explains why the debate continues on whether or not some form of intermediate tier is required between the SOS and schools, as part of the ‘intelligent’ accountability framework.
Sir Michael Wilshaw , the Chief Inspector,told the Education Select Committee on 13 February that local authorities should be able to “identify under performance in academies “They have a powerful part to play in local authority schools, those schools they control, and those outside their direct control,” Sir Michael said.“They identify under-performance in academies. They should be writing to the chair of governors and the sponsor of that academy and contacting the academy division at the department.”He also said that he wanted Ofsted to inspect academy chains and is in talks with the Secretary of State on this issue.
OBSTACLES TO FREE SCHOOLS EXPANSION
Buildings a big problem but new proposals might help
The Think Tank Policy Exchange published a report in 2010 ‘ Blocking the Best Obstacles to new, independent state schools ,co -authored by Rachel Wolf.
This report accurately examines the changes required to make an expanded programme of genuinely independent state schools a reality. The ﬁrst part examines the barriers which prevent new providers entering the system, including a ponderous approval process and overly restrictive planning and building procedures. The second part looks at restrictions on academy independence which curb innovation, including bureaucratic and poorly-focused accountability mechanisms and interference by central and local government. The third part looks at interventions in cases of school failure.
There are two major constraints to the expansion of the Free schools initiative. First, a shortage of capital. Second, a shortage of appropriate buildings for these new schools. Some parents and charities looking to set up free schools have long complained that suitable buildings are proving to be scarce, raising fears that Michael Gove’s revolution may lose more momentum. (For example Katherine Birbalsinghs Free school bid in south London failed to find a suitable property and was delayed for a year). But the other side of this coin is restrictive building regulations and planning laws that make setting up a new school something of a bureaucratic nightmare. This report found that many of the building requirements which apply to schools are an unnecessary block on innovation and should be lifted from all schools. However, the authors said there is a key difference between the expectations of schools which children have to attend and the expectations of schools where parents make an active choice. In the former case, some basic minimum standards need to be mandated because parents cannot alter what is happening in any other way. In the latter case, if parents are happy with the conditions of a building (beyond basic health and safety) then that should be sufﬁcient. Schools which replace existing supply should be free from space and design regulations, but should still meet minimum requirements on acoustics, ventilation and lighting, the report concluded.
Eric Pickles,the Communities and Local Government Secretary has just announced (25 January 2013 ) that Free schools will be able to open in offices, hotels and warehouses without planning permission that will allow proposed free schools to speed through red tape.This will include rewriting planning laws to allow schools to open before they have received council permission to occupy their new buildings. They will have 12 months’ grace before requiring change-of-use approval.
Ministers argue that final planning permission is almost always granted but that too many would-be free schools — the Government’s signature education reform — are being snarled up in the lengthy application process. Mr Pickles will also loosen the rules on the type of building that free schools can convert, to include office buildings, hotels, theatres, hostels, shops and warehouses.
One issue, though, that might remain an obstacle is that Councils can object to a new school on the grounds of the effect it will have on local traffic. This is a sensible caveat but could be used by Councils opposed to Free schools as a blocking measure.
The process of finding a site for a Free School has already, according to the government, been sped up by the drive to cut red tape in the planning system. The following improvements are already in place:
Appeals from schools are treated as a priority.
National planning guidance has been slashed from thousands of pages to just 47.
Councils must give priority to the need for new school developments when considering planning applications.
These earlier measures were supposed to free up the process of finding suitable property, but clearly havent had the desired effect, otherwise these new measures would not have been necessary.
The Secretary of State said in a statement (interalia) on 28 January:
It is my intention to include within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended):
‘a permitted development right allow for the temporary change of use to a new state-funded school from any other use class along with minor associated physical development. This will be for a single year which would cover the first academic year. It will provide certainty that a school opening will not be delayed by an outstanding planning application, but will not replace the need to secure planning permission for the use beyond that first year; and a permitted development right to allow change of use to a new state-funded school from offices (B1); hotels (C1); residential institutions (C2); secure residential institutions (C2A); and assembly and leisure (D2). Any subsequent change from a new state-funded school to other uses in non residential institution class (D1) will not be permitted. These changes will be subject to a prior approval process to mitigate any adverse transport and noise impacts.’
Separately a new estate agency-style website listing surplus Government properties, has been set up to make it easier for people who want to set up a Free School to search for and find sites. It launched today and shows more than 600 properties to rent and more than 140 to buy. The list will be updated as more properties become available or are claimed.
WHAT ARE ACADEMIES OBLIGED TO TEACH?
Academies and Free schools do not have to follow the national curriculum. But… and its quite a big but..
‘Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum’, and there are a number of statutory and other requirements.
Key statutory requirements
‘Academies are required to have a broad and balanced curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.’
For pupils below key stage 1 (i.e. reception and nursery), academies are required to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Summary of requirements under the funding agreement
While academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum they are required to ensure their curriculum:
includes English, maths and science;
includes Religious Education, although the nature of this will depend on whether the school has a faith designation;
secures access to independent, impartial careers advice for pupils in years 9-11; and
includes sex and relationship education (SRE).
Academies are required to take part in the following assessments:
Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (in reception);
Teacher assessments at Key Stage 1;
National tests at Key Stage 2;
Teacher assessments at Key Stage 3; and
All relevant monitoring arrangements as prescribed by the Secretary of State.
Are the curriculum requirements the same for all academies?
No. ‘Prior to September 2010, some funding agreements required academies to follow the National Curriculum Programmes of Study in English, maths and science (and in some cases ICT). We (DFE) will be writing to those academies to say that we will not enforce those contractual provisions.’
(I assume that the DFE has already informed the relevant academies about this)
Source Academy Curriculum Fact Sheet, DFE, up dated December 2012
Remember, Academies and Free schools are ‘autonomous’ in the sense that they have certain freedoms, over the curriculum, pay, etc and are ‘freed’ from local authority bureaucracy but each school, nonetheless, is subject to a Funding Agreement with the DFE . The funding agreements are essentially contracts between the Secretary of State and the organisation which establishes and runs the school ( ie ‘the academy trust’) . This varies between schools. So Academies are still subject to central controls, and, of course, Ofsted inspections. Although Lord Adonis wanted the DNA of independent schools transferred to academies it would be something of a challenge to argue that academies are as autonomous or ‘free’ as independent schools. Could, for example, the Secretary of State object to the appointment of a governor in an independent school? I think not.
Academies are charities run by an academy trust. But they are what is termed ’ exempt ‘charities. So , rather than being regulated by the independent Charities Commission they are regulated by the Secretary of State . Indeed, the Secretary of State prescribes membership of the trustee body in some detail. So’“exempt” charities in this case at least may be operating in an even more regulated and much more highly politicised environment than is the case for conventional charities
- PAYING FOR RESULTS-CAN IT HELP RAISE PERFORMANCE- OR DOES IT CORRUPT THE LOVE OF LEARNING?
- PROSPECTS JOINS MUTUAL JOINT VENTURE TO DELIVER PUBLIC SERVICES-GOVERNMENT KEEN ON EMPLOYEE OWNED MUTUALS DELIVERING PUBLIC SERVICES
- PROFESSOR TONY WATTS RESIGNS FROM THE NATIONAL CAREERS COUNCIL
- EDISON LEARNING AND THE NAHT UNION LAUNCH A SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVE WITH DFE BACKING
- THE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF ACADEMIES-WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE ARE CONCERNS?
- PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ACADEMIES-SOME CONCERNS OVER FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
- CAIRNS OF BRIGHTON COLLEGE BACKS ACADEMIES
- IS CAREERS ADVICE IN SCHOOLS EFFECTIVE OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO SAY?
- LEMOVS TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION -TOP TECHNIQUES USED BY THE BEST TEACHERS
- THE PUPIL PREMIUM AND SPECIAL SCHOOLS
- EDUCATION EXPORTS-NEW GOVERNMENT STRATEGY IN THE WINGS?
- INSPECTING ACADEMY CHAINS-ON THE AGENDA
- Careers advice and Guidance
- Charity Status
- Charter School
- Coalition Education Policy
- Conservative policy
- Discipline and Truancy
- early years learning
- education market
- education quangos
- education reform
- Free schools
- higher education
- Home Education
- independent schools
- primary schools
- Public Services Reform
- published letters
- Pupil Support
- quality assurance
- quality assurance and inspection
- school governance
- secondary schools
- Secure Estate
- SPECIAL NEEDS
- teachers and teaching
- Think tanks
- us education system
- Youth policy