Education

23.02.18

Academies mean councils struggling to take integrated approach to education

Councils are struggling to take an integrated approach to education in areas where high numbers of secondary schools are academies, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.

The report has found that the government is taking longer than intended to convert a large proportion of the underperforming schools that it believes will benefit most from academy status.

However, converting maintained schools to academies is central to the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) approach to improving education – so far at an estimated cost of £745m since 2010-11.

Schools that Ofsted has rated as ‘inadequate’ are to convert to academies with the support of a sponsor, with the aim of opening within nine months, but almost two-thirds of these schools take longer than this.

The NAO has estimated that last month there were 37,000 children in maintained schools that had been rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted more than nine months previously and had not yet opened as academies.

It has reportedly been difficult for the department to find sponsors for some of the most challenged schools, particularly small, remote primary schools which can struggle to attract local sponsors and are less easy to integrate into multi-academy trusts.

There is “considerable regional variation” in the number of available sponsors located close to underperforming schools and a shortage of sponsors and multi-academy trusts to support new academies. For example, 242 sponsored academies are over 50 miles from their sponsor.

Since 2012-13 the department has offered grants aimed at boosting the ability of sponsors to take on more academies, but the NAO reports seeing no evidence that the efficacy of this has been assessed.

The proportion of secondary schools that have become academies far outweighs primary schools, with 72% of secondary schools, including free schools, having academy status – compared to 27% of primary schools.

This means that local authorities are responsible for most primary schools and specialist providers, but very few secondary schools, with up to 93% of secondary schools being academies in some councils.

According to the report, this high proportion of secondary schools that are academies means that it is difficult for councils to take an “integrated, whole-system approach to the education of children in their area.”

The process for converting schools to academies has recently been improved, with closer scrutiny of the financial position of maintained schools applying to become academies and prospective sponsors. Expected governance standards have also been increased by the DfE.

The auditor concluded that there is further scope for the process to be made more effective, particularly when identifying financial risks and strengthening assurance that trustees and senior leaders are suitable to be responsible for public money.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “It is unclear how feasible it will be for the department to continue converting large numbers of schools to academies.

“There is extensive variation across the country, leaving many local authorities with responsibility largely for primary schools. 

“To cut through this complexity, the department needs to set out its vision and clarify how it sees academies, maintained schools and local authorities working together to create a coherent and effective school system for children across all parts of the country.”

Top image: recep-bg

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here 

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

 County council director and CCG CEO to lead STP in joint-role

22/05/2019 County council director and CCG CEO to lead STP in joint-role

Hertfordshire and West Essex STP has announced a job-share partnership between the local county council and CCG to lead the STP. Iain MacBea... more >
Even ‘draconian cuts won’t be enough’ as councils face £50bn funding blackhole

22/05/2019Even ‘draconian cuts won’t be enough’ as councils face £50bn funding blackhole

Councils in England face a funding black hole of over £50bn across the next six years, according to a new report warning that local authori... more >
Government backs Northamptonshire unitary authorities with one-year delay and separate children’s services trust

15/05/2019Government backs Northamptonshire unitary authorities with one-year delay and separate children’s services trust

The government has formally approved the formation of two new unitary councils in Northamptonshire in 2021, a year later than first planned, also... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
View all News

the raven's daily blog

Empower your reader, choose print

07/05/2019Empower your reader, choose print

We are on a digital rollercoaster, swirling and twirling through a variety of different online advertising platforms – have we forgotten about traditional marketing platforms such as print? The UK is currently the global leader in advertising, generating £6 for every £1 spent on advertising to the economy. This year, UK ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Cities as places of opportunity

29/04/2019Cities as places of opportunity

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, asks: if cities are places of opportunity for the low skilled, why are so many struggling? ... more >
Shaping healthy places with district councils

29/04/2019Shaping healthy places with district councils

District councils are achieving excellent outcomes by shifting health solutions from clinical settings to community ones. They have a significant... more >
The road more taken: delivering future connectivity and mobility

29/04/2019The road more taken: delivering future connectivity and mobility

Localis chief executive Jonathan Werran outlines the challenges to delivering future connectivity and mobility, and asks what policy shifts to ho... more >
The state of the Spring Statement

29/04/2019The state of the Spring Statement

Ben Zaranko, research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), analyses this year’s Spring Statement and looks ahead to the Spe... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

public sector focus

View all News