60% of English schools are still not academies

Janet Downs's picture

It’s nearly nine years since the Academies Act was propelled through Parliament with the speed usually reserved for emergency measures in times of national crisis.

This was supposed to inspire a mass conversion of English schools into academies – free from local authority ‘control’, we were told.   Money was bunged at the project – the National Audit Office found £1b had been overspent in the early years of academization.  Ministers, most of the media and a few high-profile foghorns hyped the superiority of academies at every opportunity.

It was hoped all schools would become academies.

But, nine years on, figures released yesterday show 60% of English schools remain in the stewardship – not ‘control’ – of the much-maligned local authorities.  Shamefully, this 60%, the majority of English schools, are constantly derided as ‘council schools’ held up as less successful, less innovative and less shiny than academies.

Nearly six in ten of English schools are NOT academies.   After nearly a decade of propaganda (more, if you count the deception about academies during the Labour years), persuasion (sometimes of the Don Corleone type) and pushing, the majority of English schools have not taken the academy route.

The secondary sector was the most enthusiastic about academization.   67.7% of English secondary schools are now academies. But nearly one-quarter (24.4%) of secondary schools are still LA-maintained*.

The primary sector, on the other hand, has approached academization with more caution.  Nearly 70% remain with their LAs.  That’s likely because primary schools are smaller and less likely to have the resources to cope as a stand-alone academy trust.  Schools which join a multi-academy trust lose their separate legal identity and will only have as much autonomy as the MAT trustees will allow them.  So much for the illusive promise of freedom.


*This is not an error.  The missing 8% are secondary free schools, UTCs and studio schools.


THE DATA: 38% of English schools are converter or sponsored academies; 2.2% are free schools (including studio schools and UTCs), 59.8% are LA-maintained.

31.9% of English primary schools are converter or sponsored academies, 1% are free schools, 67.1% are LA maintained.  67.7% of English secondary schools are academies, 8% are free schools (including studio schools and UTCs), 24.4% are LA maintained.

The figures include all types of state-funded schools including special schools and alternative provision.

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agov's picture
Thu, 06/06/2019 - 08:30

"That’s likely because primary schools are smaller and less likely to have the resources to cope as a stand-alone academy trust. "

And/or that even with the same percentage of the school's budget being offered as an upfront bribe to convert, the result was that a bountifully funded secondary school was able to construct new buildings etc and pay an inflated salary to their 'CEO' whereas a primary sector school with a tiny budget got a tiny bribe able only to replace a few window blinds etc.

And perhaps also that primary sector governors are not as dumb as those in secondaries appear to be, hence it was not governors from the primary sector that went on the net whining that the bribe was not repeated yearly.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 06/06/2019 - 08:57

agov - a survey in 2012, two years into the mass academisation projfect, 78% of heads said they became academies because of the perception they'd get more money.  

This headlong rush by mostly secondary schools and a small number of large primaries completely ignored the effect on smaller schools of less money going to LAs: reduction in services and support.  It also fragmented the education system in England and, as we are now seeing, causing poblems surrounding the ownership of school land which had been paid for by taxpayers.  This is over-and-above the problems you highlight: inflated salaries for CEOs and 'executive principals'; pots of money available for academy improvement which are denied LA schools.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 11/06/2019 - 09:38

This piece from Nancy Bailey in the US is moot to this discussion. We have seen our dumb politicians sign up to the idea that promoting an education market is the way to go to create a better education service for all. On the contrary, it leads to the destruction of state sponsored education, free at the point of delivery and designed to promote equality of opportunity.


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