Budget 2016: every English school set to become an academy by 2020

We expected education to feature prominently in the March 2016 Budget, but have we ever witnessed such a strong focus on the education sector before?

In a move which George Osborne says will “make Britain fit for the future”, the Conservative Government will complete the task of “setting schools free from local education bureaucracy” by making every primary and secondary school in England an academy by 2020.

What are academies?

Academies are state-funded, independent schools which are run by charitable trusts via a contract with the government. Rather than receiving their funding from a local authority, it’s delivered directly from central government.

How many are there at the moment?

At the moment, 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools are academies, while only 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools have academy status.

So will academies liberate schools “from the shackles of local bureaucracy”

or is it just “forced academisation” without evidence of success?

Academy benefits

Academy schools have more flexibility and freedom over pay, length of school day, and term times, which the government believes will drive up standards. An increase in innovative projects and methods of teaching will be possible, and these schools would be free to opt out of the national curriculum.

The ‘Victorian’ tradition of the 3.30 end of school bell will be a thing of the past as thousands of academy schools will be able to remain open for at least an hour longer a day, thanks to a new fund which will be made available to schools. This is surely welcome news to those parents who currently have to pay for after-school childcare.

Osborne maintains that he wants to “support secondary schools that want to offer their pupils longer days with more extra-curricular activities like sport and art.” There is the argument that through extending the school day, a level playing field will be created, which could make sure that pupils have equal access to the same volume of quality education.

Proponents also argue that academies have been shown to improve twice as fast as other schools.

What do critics say?

Teaching unions have long feared that “academisation” is a ploy to bring in privatisation of the school system, while others are concerned about a potential “lack of oversight”.

A study carried out for the Local Government Association also suggests that pupils in academies do not achieve much better results than pupils in schools without academy status.

Finally, there is concern that local people will have a lot less power to intervene if their child’s academy school is failing.

Good news for primary schools

Some primary head teachers have found that being part of an academy has had a favourable impact.

Mark Currell, Headteacher at Abington Vale Primary School in Northampton, worked with four other local primaries to create the Northampton Primary Academy Trust, a multi-academy trust in November 2012.

He said, “Being part of an academy chain has allowed our schools to work much more closely together, to streamline our back office operations and get the best deals […] There are also many more opportunities for our teachers to collaborate across the five schools — such as on literacy and numeracy work — and to buy in external support if needed.”

So how can Bright Young Things help?

The academisation may enable schools to work more closely with external education specialists like Bright Young Things, benefiting from bespoke tuition and innovative extra-curricular workshops.

Bright Young Things is also there to help parents, and promises to provide consistent, reform-proof tuition that is tailor-made for the individual.

Bright Young Things Tuition Centres run weekly courses in English, Maths, 11+ preparation, GCSE and A Level revision, and work with pupils to ensure they achieve their maximum potential.

You can find out more about what we offer here.