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

Up to 2,500 homes on the way as part of York Central development proposals submitted

14/08/2018Up to 2,500 homes on the way as part of York Central development proposals submitted

Around 6,500 jobs and a 20% surge in the local economy are expected after landmark new plans were submitted for planning permission in York. ... more >
Fight against Dorset merger ends as Christchurch council accepts defeat

14/08/2018Fight against Dorset merger ends as Christchurch council accepts defeat

Christchurch Borough Council has agreed not to take its legal fight to the Court of Appeal following the refusal of its Judicial Review applicati... more >
Social housing green paper only small step compared to ‘huge need’ for affordable homes, LGA says

14/08/2018Social housing green paper only small step compared to ‘huge need’ for affordable homes, LGA says

The government’s social housing green paper is “only a small step” in delivering more social homes says the UK’s largest ... 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

Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

13/08/2018Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

A council that took four years in a legal wrangle to remove a pony from an Isle of Lewis house may have found the four-legged beast a new home. Western Isles council removed Grey Lady Too – a Connemara pony that was taken into the home by pensioner Stephanie Noble on Christmas Eve in 2011 – from its residence in 2014 because i... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

A new era of opportunity for the north

13/08/2018A new era of opportunity for the north

It’s time to stop seeing transport investment as a nice-to-have: it’s a cut-through catalyst for growth in sectors across the north. ... more >
Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

13/08/2018Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

Dr Linze Schaap, associate professor at the Tilburg Centre for Regional Law and Governance, and Dr Niels Karsten, assistant professor at the Tilb... more >
Creating a council cloud-first approach

13/08/2018Creating a council cloud-first approach

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, makes the case for wider adoption of cloud technology by local authoritie... more >
The strength of districts

13/08/2018The strength of districts

Cllr Isobel Darby, member lead for quality of life at the District Councils’ Network (DCN) and leader of Chiltern District Council, shares ... more >

interviews

Modern policing: the future is bright

06/08/2018Modern policing: the future is bright

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says L... more >
Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

06/08/2018Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

Michael King first joined the Local Government Ombudsman service back in 2004 as deputy ombudsman. At the start of 2017, he was appointed as the ... more >
Helping a city understand itself

06/08/2018Helping a city understand itself

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The urban landscape is changing. How can local authorities keep up with citizen behaviour? Stephen Leece, managing directo... more >
Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >

public sector focus

View all News