Academies could 'fuel social segregation'

pupils There are now more than 2,300 academies in England, government data shows

The rising number of schools in England with academy status could fuel rather than improve social segregation, says a report by the Academies Commission.

The report says some academies may "covertly" select pupils by using extra information on families or holding social events with prospective parents.

The commission says academies should publish socio-economic data about who applies and who is offered a place.

Academies are independent school which are funded by the state.

In its report - Unleashing Greatness - the Academies Commission says it has received evidence that some popular schools, including academies, attempt to select and exclude pupils.

It says that, while this practice is not new, the fact that academies have greater autonomy over their admissions has "attracted controversy and fuelled concerns that the growth of academies may entrench rather than mitigate social inequalities".


This report is a detailed overview of one of the biggest structural changes to England's education system in recent times.

The shift towards more schools becoming academies, the review says, has come at an 'astonishing speed' since the coalition came to power and 'the scale and speed of change has been huge',

Half of England's secondary schools are now academies, although only 5% of primaries are.

The review panel drew together recent research on academies as well as views of various people and groups.

It's aim, it says, was not to discuss the decision to develop the academies programme - which has been controversial - but to look to the future to suggest ways of improving it.

Its key recommendations, about boosting accountability and standardising the rules on who schools can admit and how parents can get redress if their children are turned away, are being keenly read by all sides of the debate, with each finding elements to support their views.

All state schools must abide by an admissions code, which obliges them to admit pupils in a fair way.

But the commission says it has received numerous submissions suggesting "academies are finding methods to select covertly".

The admissions code says that schools cannot interview children or parents, or give priority to children whose parents offer financial or practical support.

"Some witnesses suggested to the commission that schools, including academies, have ways to get around this, such as by holding 'social' events with prospective parents or pre-admission meetings."


The report says the rise in the number of academies - 2,309 at the start of this academic year, up from 203 in May 2010 - could see further admissions injustices.

"As the pace and scale of academisation lead to a rapid rise in the number of schools that are their own admission authorities, there is a risk that admissions 'game-playing' may be extended further.

"The current emphases on choice and diversity may go some way to improving the school system in England, but they are likely to hit a ceiling because of the lack of engagement with (or even negative impact on) disadvantaged families."

Start Quote

Each academy should publish comprehensive data, including socio-economic data, about who applies to it and who is admitted”

End Quote Academies Commission

The commission calls on the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to develop a system for admissions which allows parents "some independent recourse in terms of their relationship with an individual school, or each academy trust, acting as its own admissions authority".

"This is particularly important in terms of appeals," it says.

The report also recommends school data on admissions to be made widely available and analysed by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to identify any segregation.

"In the interests of demonstrating fairness and accessibility, the commission believes that each academy should publish comprehensive data, including socio-economic data, about who applies to it and who is admitted. "

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "All admissions authorities - be they local councils or self-governing schools including academies - must comply with our new fair admissions code.

"We specifically changed the law so that anyone who has concerns about how any state-funded school is admitting pupils can formally object to the OSA."


The Academies Commission report also suggests the role of school governors in academies is becoming even more important and needs "greater attention".

"The commission's evidence gathering suggests there needs to be a radical shift in their capacity, knowledge and attitude if they are to take on both the leadership role expected in an academised system and fulfil their legal responsibilities as directors of charitable companies."

The report also says the recruitment of chairs of governors need to be "far more professional and rigorous", with positions being advertised.

Michael Gove The commission calls on Mr Gove to give parents help in appealing against an academy's admission decision

The commission also says no school should be judged outstanding for leadership unless it can provide evidence of its contribution to system-wide improvement, such as support for the improvement of another local school.

Chair of the commission and former Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: "Academisation alone cannot bear the burden of improvement.

"There has to be enough support and challenge in the system, and enough checks and balances, for academies or groups of academies to be able to use the independence they have gained professionally and with moral purpose. "

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "This report highlights serious problems with Michael Gove's management of one of Labour's key school improvement programmes.

"The report issues a clear warning on the implementation of the academies policy, echoing Labour's concerns that under this government the schools system is becoming chaotic, impacting on standards and fairness."

What are Academies?

  • Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government
  • They were originally brought in by Labour in a bid to improve struggling schools, primarily in deprived areas.
  • The policy has been altered and accelerated by the coalition government
  • All primary and secondary schools are now invited to convert to academy status, but priority is given to those deemed by watchdog Ofsted to be "outstanding" or "performing well"
  • Education Secretary Michael Gove says academies will drive up standards by putting more power in the hands of head teachers
  • There were 2,456 academies open in England, as of November 2012
  • The number has grown dramatically under the coalition government, from 203 in May 2010

Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority.

They have more freedom than other state schools over their finances, curriculum, length of terms and school days and do not need to follow national pay and conditions for teachers.

Academies were first set up under Tony Blair's Labour government, with the aim of raising standards in under-performing schools in disadvantaged areas.

However, the coalition government extended the programme in 2010 to allow good and outstanding state schools to convert to academy status.

The Academies Commission was set up by the Pearson Think Tank and the RSA charity to examine the implications of the "mass academisation" of state schools.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    So, essentially, they're grammar schools under another name. But with one important difference: the grammar schools allowed bright children from poor families to shine, while the academies seem restricted to the children of the wealthy. This change in their function is leading to the two-tier education system (and thus the society) the Tories have wanted for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.


    'My son now attends an outstanding state school who choose to fully integrate children, no matter their background.'

    So an entire classes education is now (potentially) disrupted by your autistic son's behaviour - you didn't specify just how autistic your child was - it's a wide spectrum.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen is why academies are so popular.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    My 8 year olds school became an Academy this term.The first thing they did - charge an entry fee to watch a morning assembly. Disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    When selecting a state school for our children, we went and 'interviewed 'the school.
    We went to as many open evenings, etc and then had a meeting with the Heads of the schools we were considering. We read the OFSTED reports, talked with current parents, Governors and then we made an informed choice.
    You would shop around for a new car, why not take the same care over your childs education?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    12 Minutes ago
    quite, as an adult you don't expect to be hit, shoved, sworn at or have sexual comments shouted at you at work, yet a school pupil will often have to deal with this and there isn't too much the teachers can do. Either to support the disruptive students, who may also have emotional or family problems, or to protect the hardworking ones from being victimised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    @79 These types of schools are not designed to improve "educational standards in general", they are designed to improve their own standards. If that means lowering the standards of other neighbouring schools by picking off the best students from the most engaged parents, then so be it. If they really worked, then you would see the average standards of all schools increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    i.e back to grammar schools.
    Which really BENIFITTED BRIGHT KIDS FROM POOR FAMILIES and the whole country.
    The system should NEVER have been changed in the first place.
    Labour policies have wrecked our bad eduction system for generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Fairness, unlikely by accident, would mean fair treatment for fair contribution, through equal distribution of our common currency, equal means in democratic competition for political influence & personal place

    Spending-power equality agreed, for start & end of each day, in mutual respect, any loss only from laziness or crime, special needs not special greeds met by state or blue-skies charity

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Academies would be acceptable if the funding they received were the same as that for non-Academies. This is what is driving the appeal for academy status. It is unforgiveable that the median funding for a Key Stage 4 (Sixth form) student in an academy is £7880 whilst that for a student in a Sixth Form College is £4601 (DfE figures). How can this be justified?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    That’s a good thing isn’t it? The problem with “bog-standard” comprehensives is that children from families that want to work and get on in life are held back by those whose ambition is to do as little work as possible and are just marking time till they can take up a career in benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    To all the labour trolls out there taking a pop at the Tories and slagging academies as a road to privatisation I would ask you two questions:
    1) Which Political Party introduced Acadamies? and
    2) Have the admissions criteria changed since May 2010?
    I will give you a clue ........ LABOUR and NO !!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    What's wrong with segregating students that are likely do best at school?

    Better this than left wing dumbing down to the lowest level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I agree with this article, especially after my family's experience with one. We ended up pulling our children out of the academy due the entire staff not caring about my son's needs (he is autistic) and the need for him to be able to cope and be able to partake in daily school life. My son now attends an outstanding state school who choose to fully integrate children, no matter their background.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Education and Health have frustrated the Tories for years because neither they or there backers have been able to make any money out of a very large area of expenditure. The changes in these areas are nothing to with standards or opportunity if they were they wouldn't focus on ownership.

    No they are just another way for the elite to try to extract more of the countries GDP into their pockets

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I agree Academys are not the same as Grammars but I think some of the principles are similar

    I went to a Grammar school & we were told to remember we were the top 25% of pupils in the country - how arrogant??

    It always worried me that my friends would see me differently as they went to secondary modern schools, luckily they didn't

    This however was during Thatchers time

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    81. jgm2
    8 Minutes ago

    Children push boundaries more than adults. When there are 36 of them in one class it's difficult to maintain discipline when you've had the tools to do this removed.
    Most badly behaved kids have parents who don't really care, which creates problems.
    If you break rules as an adult there are consequences (eg you get the sack), there are few consequences for naughty kids

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Any comment about how good or bad academies may or may not be is just 'noises off'. If you were a government ideologically hell-bent on reducing the size of the State then of course you'd be preparing for the privatisation of education, which the academy programme is all about. It's not rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Couldn't agree more with Andy, faith schools are outrageous. How on earth can a modern society deem it fair to exclude children from schools based on what, if any god they believe in?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    We really need to reform our education sector from top to bottom but this Government and more importantly Mr Gove are not the people for the job. I feel sorry for the children currently at school.

    Is it too much to wish for an education minister that knows a thing or two about education, preferably from time as a teacher? Gove is a faiiled journalist and then politician. Worst man for the job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I thought that was the idea behind them.


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