As part of today’s budget, the government has announced that all schools are to convert to academies by 2022. The legislation will bring to an end local authority involvement in schools – a relationship which stretches back to 1902.
Academies receive their funding directly from the Education Funding Agency, rather than from the local authority and have greater freedoms over how they deliver the curriculum, which the government believes will lead to greater innovation, and therefore greater benefits to students. Multi-Academy trusts, consisting of more than one academy, are also believed to provide greater benefits in terms of collaboration and efficiencies than can be achieved by one academy operating independently.
Historically schools converting to academies have received grant funding, along with additional funding to cover costs previously incurred by the local authority, which the academy will now need to fund themselves. It’s not yet clear whether this funding will continue to be made available to all of the schools who convert before 2022. The Department for Education is currently undertaking a consultation process as it looks to fund schools and academies in the fairest way possible – no doubt today’s announcement will have an impact on the proposals made once the consultation closes.
Currently the nationwide picture is around 20% of all primary and secondary schools are academies, with around two thirds of secondary schools having converted, compared to just 14% of primary schools. Looking closer to home, there are just 13 academies in Newcastle, although a further 5 are in the process of converting, according to the latest figures from the EFA. Whilst all the implications from today’s announcement aren’t clear, what is clear is that this will have a significant impact across the North East, as large numbers of schools begin to consider their options and start the conversion process.