‘The Chancellor’s formal announcement that the full academisation of the English school system will be forced through by legislation is a surprise. Not in what it is aimed at achieving, which is entirely consistent with government policy, but in the scale and speed of the change.
‘It is not for us to debate the pedagogical or philosophical cases for or against the Academy Trust model. However, as business advisers, RSM has worked across the education sector for over 25 years and we have seen the challenges that significant policy changes bring with them. Moving the better part of 20,000 schools out of local authority control and giving them ‘independence’ will be a huge logistical challenge for the civil servants that have to effect this change and a significant operational challenge for school business managers and head teachers to take full control of running the ‘business’.
‘There will also be a major cultural challenge for school governors as they become trustees of a charity for the first time, with all that that entails in terms of personal responsibility, accountability and the public scrutiny charitable academy status brings.
‘Many schools have successfully made the move already over the last few years but those, for the most part, have been voluntary. Even then though, there have been failures in educational quality, governance and financial control, as witnessed through the reports of Ofsted, the EFA and the Education Select Committee. With the scale of the change being forced through now, there will inevitably be further failures. This will be a steep learning curve for trustees and managers but the Chancellor made no commitment to help train them for this new role.
‘On a positive note, an extra half a billion pounds of additional funding will be provided through a new national funding programme and money raised from the new sugar tax on the soft drink industry will be used to fund school sports and an optional longer school day.’