Damian Hinds calls for more schools to academise

Damian Hinds is calling for more schools to become academies, stating that they boast ‘freedom and opportunities’

The damning news from the Public Accounts Committee outlining the issues inherent in academies has correlated with a call from the education secretary, Damian Hinds, for more academies.

Figures show that over half of children in English state schools are taught in an academy or free school, with standards apparently rising faster in a lot of sponsored academies than in similar council-run schools.

Damian Hinds has hailed the milestone as a decisive moment and urged more schools to consider the freedom and opportunities offered by becoming an academy.

More than 8,300 schools in the country have become an academy or opened as a free school, with hundreds of schools making the choice to convert to become an academy in the last 12 months alone.

The academies programme was introduced by the last government in 2000, with the aim “to improve pupil performance and break the cycle of low expectation”. By 2010, there were 203 academies – mostly in inner cities.

The 2010 Academies Act gave all schools in England the freedom to choose to become an academy.

Hinds said: “In everything we’ve been doing to improve education these last few years, we have put a strong focus on handing power back to schools, back to school leaders – recognising that they are the ones best placed to make the right decisions for their pupils and their communities.

“It is fantastic that 50% of the pupils in state-funded schools in the country are now benefitting from the freedom and autonomy that an academy trust enjoys. But the academies programme has never really been about structures – it has been about trusting head teachers and school leaders to run schools.

“Whilst there is a huge amount of diversity in our school system – and there are great schools of all types – I want more schools to choose to become an academy and enjoy the enormous benefits it provides to schools, their staff and pupils.”

“In the past, schools that failed were allowed to stay under local authority control for far too long. Academies have changed all that – failing schools can now be taken away from local bureaucracies who have not been able to improve them and given to school leaders who can.

“We have seen many of these sponsored academies dramatically improve their Ofsted results following conversion, and this new research shows the improvements many schools have made since they became an academy.

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“As part of our effort to improve school standards across the country, it is important that we are clear that no school will be left to fail their pupils.e children benefit from teachers being in the driving seat, we can look forward to standards rising even higher in the future.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, commented:

“Figures from the Department for Education analysing the performance of sponsored academies confirms that, almost a decade after the drive for all schools in England to become academies began, there is no evidence to justify the millions of pounds spent on this flawed flagship Conservative education policy, nor the disruption that forced academisation has wrought on school communities.

“It is laughable, therefore, that Damian Hinds is calling for more schools to become academies.

“This analysis shows there is substantial variation in performance of secondary-sponsored academies and that while some perform well, there are some schools with results well below national average performance, even in the groups that have been academies for more than seven years.

“A similar mixed picture is also seen among sponsored primary academies.

“Numerous reports, including today’s damning assessment from the Public Accounts Committee, show that the academies programme is seriously failing. It is time for the secretary of state to admit that he is presiding over a flawed initiative which has damaged a generation of children and young people and wreaked havoc on our education system.”

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