'Academies are here to stay and the sooner we embrace the change, the sooner our pupils will benefit'
Headline quoting Frank Green, the new Schools Commissioner, TES, 23 April 2014
So, how have pupils benefitted from academy conversion since the Office of the Schools Commissioner (OSC) was set up in 2007?
1 Some sponsored academies, such as Mossbourne, have succeeded spectacularly. But others have not. And Henry Stewart’s research has found that similar non-academies have done just as well, if not slightly better, than sponsored academies.
2 Sponsored academies are more likely than non-academies to use equivalent* exams making them appear more successful.
3 Converter academies are mainly schools which were already good or outstanding. They are supposed to benefit from extra freedom, but the Academies Commission (2013) found UK schools already had substantial autonomy, the supposed extra freedom didn’t amount to much and non-academies could do most things academies can do.
4 Not all academies have converted willingly: as well as the “rewarded succeeders” there are “punished failures” and “near boiled frogs”.
If pupils haven’t benefited as much as the Government claims, there are groups that have benefited from academy conversion: some academy chains and companies linked to academy trustees. E-Act, for example, whose CEO, Sir Bruce Liddington, was the first Schools Commissioner, operated in a culture of extravagance. Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has asked the Department for Education (DfE) to tell academy trustees that awarding contracts to companies run by trustees or their families is “just wrong”.
The PAC comments followed revelations in the Guardian that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money were going from academies to private firms linked to trustees. These included a payment of £111,469 from Leigh Academies Trust to Shoreline, a private company founded by one of its trustees, Frank Green, now the new Schools Commissioner, in consultancy fees. Green told the Guardian the payment was “pro-rata for extra work” and had been approved by the board of the Leigh Academies Trust.
MP Rosie Cooper, speaking in the debate on enforced academy conversion, accused the outgoing Schools Commissioner, Dr Liz Sidwell, as “peddling the Education Secretary’s ideological wares as if she was some kind of snake oil saleswoman.”
It appears Dr Sidwell’s successor has picked up her banner and waving it furiously.
*Equivalent exams are non-GCSE exams, usually vocational ones, which were given an “equivalent” value (say, two or four GCSEs) in school performance tables. For example, the proportion of pupils reaching the benchmark of 5+ GCSES A*-C including Maths and English in the three secondary academies sponsored by Leigh Academies Trust in Kent dropped considerably in 2013 from 63% to 45%, 66% to 36% and 71% to 31% when equivalent examinations are removed from the 2013 GCSE data.
ADDENDUM 27 April 2014 The above has been amended to make it clear Schools Commissioner Frank Green (aka Alban Francis Xavier Green) is a trustee of Leigh Academies Trust and a director of Shoreline Learning Limited, the company which received consultancy fees from Leigh Academies Trust. The original article did not make the connection clear. Green is also a director of Nipt Limited, a company with share capital set up in August 2013. Nipt Limited has one other director, Mrs Joan Binder, who is also a director of the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association (FASNA) whose tortuous history was described here.
Company information from Duedil.