ACADEMIES AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

ACADEMIES AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

Comment

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.

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