Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Chains of Academies

What the Department of Education says:

'Any school can apply to join an existing academy trust. In addition, any group of schools, regardless of their individual Ofsted ratings, can apply in partnership to join the academy programme as long as at least one of the member schools is outstanding or good with outstanding features. The schools do not have to already be in a federation before applying. Each application will be considered on its merits, and the Secretary of State will only approve those where he is satisfied the schools have the capacity to enjoy academy freedoms and there are appropriate accountability mechanisms in place to support weaker schools to improve.'

James Hargrave (@onlygeek) on twitter on his recent blog 'James blog' talks potential models for Chains of Academies.

He explains the Chain models of Multi-academy Trust, Umbrella Trust and Informal collaboration

Any school can join a chain irrespective of their own Ofsted rating

Each Governing Body needs to pass a separate resolution

Needs to be at least one Outstanding or GWOF school in the chain

Other schools can join later although they won’t have a say on governance model if they do

Need to have appropriate arrangements to support “weaker schools”

Each school gets the £25k “support grant”

Schools can share expertise and some set up costs

Schools decide the model of governance that suits their chain

Multi Academy Trust

Schools form a single multi-academy trust which has overall responsibility

Master funding agreement with the multi-academy trust

Supplemental funding agreements with each individual school

Each school has own Governing Body

Each school has representation on the Trust Board

Powers “delegated” to individual GBs by the Trust Board

This is most like a “mini LA”

Umbrella Trust

A company formed by the schools that form the chain of academies

Has a relationship with each school but does not manage schools

Each school has its own academy trust, and each individual academy trust in the chain (not the
umbrella trust) will have its own funding agreement

This model gives schools greater independence and is very flexible

Where there are performance issues with a school the umbrella trust could appoint most governors of that school

Informal Collaboration

Schools can form looser less formal partnership links

This gives the most flexibility but less structure

Would need to ensure Secretary of State of arrangements to support any weaker schools before he will agree

But not everyone thinks Chains of Academies are a great idea.

Notable opponents include John Burn OBE an ex Head of an Academy who is pro Academy but anti Chains. His submission to the Education Bill committee can be found here.

John's main points being that the Education Bill allows:

Chains of Academies controlling and acquiring individual Academies in a way which results in individual academies having fewer operating freedoms than ordinary maintained schools;

Chains of Academies acquiring schools from other Federations without prior consultation with the staff, parents and communities concerned;

Chains of Academies creating centralised bureaucracies which are imposed upon their schools and paid for by siphoning money away from those schools; and

Chains of Academies escaping proper scrutiny and accountability through exemption from any form of inspection of the central body.

Richard Hatcher writes about 'the dangers of branded chains of schools' for the Anti Academy Alliance

The National College gave some thought on the matter in 2010 with the paper 'Chain reactions: a thinkpiece on the development of chains of schools in the English school system' written by Robert Hill.

It can be downloaded here

This report asks some good questions with lots of background information and case studies. It is well worth a read.

Other concerns include Charities or business creating Super Chains of Academies which could be far bigger than the Local Authorities they replace. One example is E-ACT ( which is claimed could run as many as 250 schools within five years.


Department of Education Academy Chains FAQ

Would like to hear other views on Chains of Academies both for and against

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