Academies present schools with greater opportunity to “innovate” says committee member

Reporting by Emily Jeffery, editing by Nicole Froio

Painsley Academy in North Staffordshire received academy status last August. At the same time it also achieved a record-breaking 100% of year 11 students receiving grades A*-C in their GCSE’s.

Painsley shared the achievement with its six Catholic feeder schools. The seven schools work together as a ‘federation‘ to help with finances, resources and services – and they now also share the title of ‘Academy’.

Veronica Johnston Jones, an academy committee member, says there was much to think about in changing status. The change was discussed by the school’s governing body and worked on for over a year before academy status was finally awarded.

Ultimately, she says, it was decided that the status of academy would be a positive step for the federation.

“At this point we had worked as a hard federation of schools for just over a year and had therefore experienced the benefits that this formal level of co-operation was bringing to the lives of the schools.

“In saying this, I mean the educational experience and achievement of the learners. Academy status would enable the schools to continue on this path with greater pace, as a result of a new level of independence and flexibility and greater revenue.”

She says the process included discussions and consultations with parents. “The majority of parents who involved themselves in the process were in favour of the application.” Many got involved with the process themselves.

The schools will now have to obey laws that govern companies, since its new status means the federation will be managed by a board of directors, and not directly by the local authority (LA).

They will also get their funding directly from the central government, and do not need to follow the national curriculum.

Instead, they will answer to Ofsted by having regular inspections to ensure the educational standards are at the expected level.

“In basic terms, an academy is completely independent of the LA. It is run by a board of directors and is a limited company registered at Companies House. It is therefore subject to laws governing companies. Academies are funded directly from central government.

“This means that the academy’s funding does not come through the LA in the traditional way like it would for state schools. The LA would ‘top slice’ a certain percentage from each schools budget to fund the authority and its services [such as human resources or catering]. Academies receive all of the money directly from the government.”

Ms Jones also said that greater freedom to govern, and a smoother system of funding, will be paramount for future progress in the schools.

“Greater freedoms to innovate and increased revenues are making a positive impact on the schools in terms of buildings, the learning environment and resources including staffing,” she said. “This in turn is having a clear and measurable effect on further raising standards and outcomes for our learners.”

A previous version of this article appeared in Academies Uncovered.

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