ACADEMIES AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
The think tank Civitas has accused Academies of inflating their exam results by choosing softer options including vocational subjects.
It found in a report last year that Academies were not publishing the subjects and qualifications in which they are achieving their so-called headline results – that is, the percentage achieving ‘5+A*-C GCSEs or equivalent’ and ‘5+A*-C GCSEs or equivalent including English and maths’. And unlike all other state-funded schools, Academies are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act – meaning a breakdown of their results cannot be requested. And what was decidedly odd was that the then DCSF, which was so keen normally for schools to reach its benchmark of five good GCSEs including English and maths didn’t hold this information on what Academies are up to centrally. Remember that Academies are funded by more taxpayers money than other maintained schools.
Academies have charity status . An academy trust, is a charitable company limited by guarantee, so are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act ,2002 This means that it is very difficult to work out whether they are actually raising the attainment of their pupils or simply choosing softer options for them, to improve league table rankings. The last Government, to its credit, agreed that Academies should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act and set the ball in motion. The Coalition Government agrees with the last governments approach on this and intends to extend the scope of the FOI Act to provide greater transparency for Academies . So to this end the Ministry of Justice is currently considering how best to deliver this. Which is good. Many Academies, I suspect, wont have much to hide.
But what should also be clear to the Government is that this level of transparency should be extended to the grant- funded quango that oversees Academies and Specialist schools, the SSAT, which is also a charity and which has a reputation for lacking both transparency and competitive neutrality. And, yes, some Charities are also quangos, think British Council.