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What is the lure of academy status for schools?

I became aware of schools becoming academies when my old grammar school gained their “academy status”.

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, is a huge advocate for academy schools. Speaking in January 2012, Gove argued that the Academies programme:

“Is not about ideology. It’s an evidence-based, practical solution built on by successive governments – both Labour and Conservative.”

To be fair to Gove, there is evidence that suggests the success of the academies.

In February 2012 Prospect Magazine looked at the success of Mosbourne Academy, located in Hackney. Before becoming an academy the school held a bad reputation and was closed down in 1995. It took 9 years to reopen under the control and sponsorship of The Richard Rogers Partnership.

Their first Ofsted inspection after the reopening was in February 2010:

Taken from the February 2010 Ofsted inspection of Mossbourne Community Academy. 1 is rated as outstanding.

They even found that “academic achievement is amongst the highest in the country.”

What leads to this success?

Prospect Magazine found that one of the main successes and lures of academy status was funding. Rather than relying on funding from a local council, they get funding from central government.

This allows for new buildings and innovation in curriculum and pay:

“Every school now has the opportunity to take complete control of its budget, curriculum and staffing by applying to be an academy.” – Michael Gove

Gove also suggests that other schools have limited racial and class diversity.

“If you’re poor, if you’re Turkish, if you’re Somali, then we don’t expect you to succeed.  You will always be second class and it’s no surprise your schools are second class.” – Gove

The Secretary of State for Education argues that he “utterly rejects” this attitude, seemingly those of the “elitist” grammar schools.

Yet in Buckinghamshire the rise of academies has met criticism. An article in the Bucks Free Press in late May 2012 showed that many parents believed that academies were a way of the “government making money” and stopping community schools.

CentrePiece publications also offered a detailed analysis on the benefits and cons of academy schools in Autumn 2010.

A fantastic graph here compares GCSE results of coalition academies, labour academies (2002 onwards), with other secondary schools:

Figure 1, taken directly from CentrePiece publications, Autumn 2010. This document is available from the previous link.

The coalition academies are shown to be highly improved compared to previous Labour academies and even to other secondary schools.

Although Stephen Marchin and Justin Vernolt question whether the money towards academy schools is justifiable in this economic period, they do show clear benefits. 

It can even be argued that Labour academies would have been far more successful if they had a longer period of implementation.

So do you believe that academy schools are beneficial?

Or are they a way of combating local government control in favour of central government power?

Comment below with your thoughts.

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