Tuesday, December 07, 2010

U-turns and Big Bangs – councils and academies

It is interesting to see that Richmond is proposing that all its primary and secondary schools become academies. I can see a big bang might be more convenient for the local authority to cope with than a slow withering on the vine of maintained schools as they leave council control. It is not clear whether the local head teachers and governing bodies have bought into the plan.

It should be noted that Surrey County Council was planning something similar – and then announced a change of mind. Even more strangely, at almost the same time as the county-wide plan was revealed, the Conservative leader of Surrey Council said that he saw "little benefit" in schools there becoming an academy.

The LGiU blog suggested yesterday that the current rate of progressing in local authority applying for academy status and applications being processed means that it could take 140 years for all schools to convert to academy status. I suspect things will quicken up. It is a major decision for head teachers and governors. Moreover, it’s scary being an early mover. While academies are a priority, the Department for Education has a lot on its plate.

What is clear is that the academy conversion process and the emergence of free schools will pose practical challenges to local authorities when they already face many other constraints and difficulties. A harbinger of this could be seen back in January the Conservative leader of Kent County Council indicated that the authority’s enthusiasm for academies had waned because the council lost money needed for “crucial support services for all its schools”.

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