Do academies raise standards? The “ideology” of rushed, forced academisation without consultation (Updates)

27 Oct

Update: 27 October 2016

Welcome news:Government formally drops academies legislation” (BBC):

Witten Statment from Education Secretary.

Updates: June  – September 2016

See comments on academies and standards.


Update: 18 May 2016

Queen’s Speech


Update: 6 May 2016

Voice welcomes government climbdown on academies


Update: 21 April 2016

“Academy accounts ‘uncertain’, warns spending watchdog” (BBC): NAO’s report.

“Educational excellence everywhere?”

Update: 4 April 2016

Policy update on academies (April 2016)

Update: 15/16 March 2016

All schools in England to become academies? (BBC)

See below for our concerns on forced academisation.

Forced academisation plans ‘distraction from real issues’


Update: 7 December 2015
Voice comments on coasting initiative in PM’s speech:

Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson said: 

“While we remain sceptical about the Government’s policy on ‘coasting’ schools, we note the interesting U-turn by the Government on academies. Extending the powers on ‘coasting’ schools to cover academies seems to be recognition by ministers that, while there are many excellent academies, there is no evidence that academies are more likely to provide higher standards than other schools. 

“Perhaps the Department for Education will now stop promoting academies as some sort of panacea that can magically transform education.”

21 October 2015:

Consultation on not consulting!

The DfE has today launched a consultation on the proposed definition of “coasting” schools. 

“Tough new powers” in The Education and Adoption Bill, currently passing through Parliament, remove the requirement to consult with parents on whether a school should convert to an academy. 

The department’s press release uses the opportunity to attack “opponents” of academisation for having “ideological objections”.

As we have pointed out before (see “Consultation” below) this is classic political rhetoric– claiming that the views of others are “ideology” while, by implication, yours are not.

Do let us know your views below…
Update: 30 June 2015

“Coasting” schools could be turned into academies. (BBC)

Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson commented: 

“It is wrong to accuse schools and their dedicated staff of being ‘complacent’ or ‘coasting’. 

“We could see the ridiculous and confusing situation of schools being labelled both ‘good’ and ‘coasting’, questioning the credibility and purpose of Ofsted inspections! ” 

“Instead of labelling schools, the Education Secretary should be talking about providing support for schools to meet the challenges that they face…

“The Government’s targets of 60% of secondary pupils to achieve five good GCSEs and 85% of primary pupils to achieve the expected standard in their national curriculum tests are artificial and inappropriate and do nothing to tackle the issue of teaching to the test. 

“The Education Secretary and her colleagues have an ideological academy fixation. 

“There is no evidence that academies are more likely to provide higher standards than other schools and many could also be labelled as ‘coasting’.”

Her comments in full.

3 June 2015:

The Education and Adoption Bill, published today, will set out measures for every school in England rated inadequate by Ofsted (possibly up to 1,000 over five years) to become an academy, and will remove the requirement for academy sponsors to consult locally on whether they should take over schools.

Commenting on the Government’s academisation plans when they were first announced in the Queen’s Speech,  Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson said:

“While we welcome the Government’s aspirations for world-class education, it seems that it is more interested in headlines and structures than in the people needed to deliver education and childcare and the funding that they require to do that. 

“There is no evidence that academies are more likely to provide higher standards than other schools. 

“Chopping and changing headteachers will not provide the stability and long-term vision that schools need.” 

Academies have been promoted by both the previous and current governments as some sort of panacea that can magically transform education. However, changing the way schools are organised and governed is not a guarantee of success or better education.

The key to the success of a school is the quality of leadership, along with investment and a positive ethos and relationship with local communities.

While there are many excellent academies, a rushed, forced academisation programme can have a negative impact.


Voice expressed its concerns about the “breakneck speed” with which the Coalition Government rushed ahead in allowing more schools to become academies, calling for a ‘less haste, more speed’ approach and urging it to implement its programme within a practical and fair timescale, allowing a proper period of consultation with staff, parents and local communities before schools decided to change their status:  “There must be sufficient time for consultation”.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan,however, has said that the new Bill will “sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.”

This is classic political  rhetoric – claiming that the views of others are “ideology” while, by implication, yours are not – and all too similar to the Govean tactic of representing democratic debate and consultation as the “bureaucratic” tactics of ‘the enemy’.


The Commons Education Select Committee found that there was no clear evidence to show that “academies raise standards overall”, calling for more evidence on their impact and challenging the Coalition Government to:

“be less defensive and more open about its implementation of the academies programme, producing a range of clearer and deeper information about the performance of academy schools, chains and sponsors. It should also review the lessons of the rapid conversion of secondary schools to inform any future expansion.”

Chair Graham Stuart said that:

“It’s still too early to know how much the academies programme has helped raise standards…. Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children.”

Do let us know your thoughts…

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29 Responses to “Do academies raise standards? The “ideology” of rushed, forced academisation without consultation (Updates)”

  1. Richard Fraser 03. Jun, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    People key to schools’ success not structures and ideology.

    On BBC Breakfast, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan not able to answer question on how many existing academies are deemed “unsatisfactory”:

  2. Jane Hetherington 30. Jun, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    Absolutely agree with everything Deborah Lawson has said today. We must stand up for the amazing work that school staff are doing in some extremely trying circumstances.

  3. Joyce Watts 01. Jul, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Another education secretary who does not understand the subject. I saw her on TV news this morning chanting the prepared statement, with the fixed features they display, that shows ‘this is what you must say’.

    This is just another excuse for making all schools academies where the control lies with those who foot the bills. Can ‘teach children using unqualified teachers. And, in general, make their own rules.

    However hard teachers work we cannot turn ALL the children into academics–no-one can. All we can do is get the best from them, whatever that ‘best’ might be.

    How many times to we have to point out that non academics shine in other employment, which is their choice, and where they are needed, and can have a successful career.

    What schools need is more, properly trained, teachers and good head teachers to run system overall.

    It would also help if schools had trained people in the other areas of responsibility which has been forced upon them in order to treat the other ills of society.

    I suggest the sec of state goes back to the drawing board, and starts by speaking to the teachers, the ones who have 30 students with the responsibility to teach them and care for them like the surrogate parents we are said to be, for five days a week.

  4. Richard Fraser 02. Jul, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Academies do not perform significantly better than local authority schools, according to LGA:

  5. Richard Fraser 25. Sep, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    “Schools converting to academies cost councils £30m, BBC reveals”

  6. Deborah Lawson, General Secretary 15. Oct, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    Re With so many changes to the exam system recently, how can year-on-year results be compared? Until pupils are all sitting the same exams, we can’t compare like with like.

  7. Dear Nicky Morgan

    Way, way back in 1970, just before I began my teaching career, Margaret Thatcher, as Conservative Education Minister, at a Scarborough conference reminded leaders of 165 local authorities that they should stop bickering over theories and start thinking about the children in their care.

    She said: Schools are for children and it is what goes on inside them that matters. We must avoid becoming preoccupied with systems and structures – to the detriment of the actual content of education. (Daily Express October 1970)

    Now it is Government not LAs – which systematically have been emasculated by Government – that is preoccupied with systems and structures to the extent of educational dictatorship.

    Our ‘milk snatcher’ might have got a lot of things wrong but she was spot on about systems and structures not making a good education system. It is what is experienced by our children and young people inside the setting that constitutes education and that is determined by good leadership and excellent teaching.

    There is not so much a shortage of teachers but a shortage of qualified teachers wanting to teach in our current education system with all the constant and professionally unreasonable demands imposed on them.

    Education cannot be equated with a production line: raw goods in, quality assured products out in the form of specified target results. Each child is unique, developing uniquely according to genes, socio-economic and demographic circumstances, and nurture, and will not easily slot into a one size fits all system.

    The argument that academies are successful because of curriculum flexibility is questionable. Is it really the curriculum flexibility alongside financial freedoms that breeds success? If so why can’t all other schools be given those freedoms? At least those settings still under LA control have greater accountability than academies…..take note of what our Chief Inspector has recently said.

    Is your Academisation programme designed to abrogate Government responsibility for our hard fought for state education system by a systematic imposed quasi-independent structure? If so, you could go down in history as ‘school snatcher’.

    Geraldine Everett, Immediate Past Chairman, Voice

  8. Kaisra Khan 21. Mar, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    Dear Nicky Morgan

    I feel we need an Iain Duncan Smith equivalent from your department to make a stand against the academisation of our children’s’ schools! Someone who can speak for the young people, who do not have a say in their education provisions.

    If the government can reverse its budget announcement on cuts to the benefits for the disabled people; a rethink over the whole scale destruction of our schools needs to be shelved too.

    Come on Minister, do the right thing for our children!

    Kaisra Khan, over 30 years service as a teacher

  9. Richard Fraser 11. Apr, 2016 at 7:02 am #

    Interesting post on academisation

  10. Richard Fraser 12. Apr, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    BBC News: “Do academies get better results?”


  11. Jane Hetherington 13. Apr, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    Well done Birmingham!

  12. Richard Fraser 25. Apr, 2016 at 7:11 am #

    More warnings:

  13. Richard Fraser 04. May, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    An analysis of primary school test results in England suggests that successful schools are not likely to improve when they become academies. (

  14. Richard Fraser 18. May, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Queen’s Speech:

  15. Richard Fraser 28. Jun, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    “No evidence that academy status improves performance of primary pupils, new research concludes”

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