Public sector snapshot: academy schools

Public sector snapshot

Academy schools

The creation of academy schools – independent of local government control – was a flagship policy of Tony Blair’s administration. But the policy has been taken over by David Cameron’s governments and its application expanded substantially.

There have been 200 times’ more academy schools formed since David Cameron became prime minister in 2010. Criteria for eligibility have changed. Under Blair, schools could convert if they underperformed, typically being those in urban areas containing above average rates of children from poor families. Many high performing schools converted to academies under the Cameron governments.

Academy schools are characterised by stronger pupil discipline as well as greater operational freedoms, with many changing school leadership after conversion. “In the initial year of becoming an academy, schools are over 60% more likely to change their head teacher than schools that have yet to convert,” found a London School of Economics’ study.

While the Academy programme is modelled on educationally successful strategies adopted in Sweden and the United States, the English programme is far more ambitious, with conversions undertaken at “a scale and at a pace that are unprecedented,” says the LSE. It concludes that a programme of “mass academisation” is “unlikely” to be “a panacea for improved pupil outcomes across the board”.

203 Academy schools formed 2002 – 2010

4,519 Academy schools formed 2010-2015

63% – English secondary schools are now academies

15% – English primary schools are now academies


Source: ‘Academy school and pupil outcomes’ and ‘The Introduction of Academy Schools to England’s Education’, both published by the London School of Economics.

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