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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Academies and free schools

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  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    123dc1. If you are a teacher then our children have no hope. Did you proof read your e-mail? God help us all (even in non faith schools).

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.


    "'Free Schools' were judged a failure in Sweden"

    By whom?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    .I have no problem at all with Grammar Schools or Academies, they do not create divisions withing society ,unrealistic ambition does, sending people to universities who really have low academic basics - cannot spell or speak properly, poor in math and science. Our country is desperate for students who aspire to these assets, it is unfortunate we do not now have jobs available for low achievers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Once the governors and Heads were given the power to do their own thing this was a distinct possibility and Gove and LEA's turn a blind eye because they are being ranked on examination results not education for all. Ofsted has caused more problems than it solved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    We seem to accept without question that "grammar schools improved social mobility and helped bright poor children". Well, it is true they did, but only a very tiny minority. the rest were condemned to failure at 11 and not being allowed to take GCE's. You don't hear many people waxing lyrical about how good their secondary modern school was in years gone by....

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    With wealthy areas developing stonger academies through buying in more established services, whilst the more deprived and less well off get ripped off by 'Joe-Businessman'; have we not just created a 'Free Private School' system being funded by the taxpayer - For the benefit of who? When does Gove become CEO of Pearsons and Benefactor of the Academies Trust, a la Milton Friedman/American Politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    What a load of drivel being spouted here. If you really want to help your local acamy/school or find out what acadamies do then become a governor then you can do something that counts rather than saying "someone should do something about it"

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Its a bit like the railways. Tories make a case for privatisation but the schools are monopolistic once the roll is settled. A confederation of 3 secondary schools is not big enough to deliver the economies needed for the specialist education services required such as SEN Alternative Provision Mental Health etc. that the LA cut provided

    Like Rail passengers Kids are going to get short changed

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    @84.Michael Winston
    He may well be a Tory, but his foundation started in 2004! I worked at one of his first schools. They brought in using non-qualified staff and institutionalised cheating to boost grades - check the photos of his top head and Gordon Brown. Even then the head had a company car and clothing allowance while we had a class set of text books to share over 7 classes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    @101. atompeg

    I totally agree...and its their parents fault!! Children aren't born with a 'faith' they are conditioned to believe what their parents believe...if it was up to me I would make it illegal for children to be indoctrinated into any 'faith' and let them make their own mind up when they're old enough!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Apart from funding it (and the idea of education vouchers remains a good one) the state should butt out of education altogether, apart from banning any form of religious instruction or selection. Otherwise schools should set the curriculum, teachers teach in the best way they can and parents choose what is best for their children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    until we seperate religion from education we will just be stoking up hatred and seperation, not intigration, this will manifest in more terrorism in the furure, it is all so obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Grammar schools improved social mobility as well as making the very most of the talents of children of all backgrounds.

    The target and tick-box driven culture of schools over the last 25 years has stifled streaming and has ensured bright kids have been dragged down to the level of the mundane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    More liberal hand wringing looking for spectres that don't exist but perhaps also seeking to justify how they can further discriminate in favour of this forever underprivileged class that warrant constant servicing to ensure that they are not inconvenienced in any way. It's nonsense. I'd ignore it but will comment as it's a constant chipping away at the nice middle class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    acadamies are just grammar schools by the back door. Also, as many of them are religious entities, they will also increase sectarianism in main land UK. Is that a good idea Grove?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    The academy where I have worked does not care about any student with any problems. It has relentlessly diminished the Support given by specialist teachers and Support Assistants. The total focus of the school is the League Tables at the end of Year 11. Admission Policy is all part of this approach. Ironically the school has gone from Satisfactory to Satisfactory in 4 Years and halved Year 7 intake

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    1 Hour ago
    Nosh it Sherlock!

    Permitting (more) faith-based schools and foreign-language schools was a dark day for our country and a bright one for those few who can afford to profit from communitarian bickering."


    Spot on, nothing more to add.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    All the schools I went to were council run but saying that my old Infants school became an academy, yes they are now rated outstanding but why would an Infants school want to become an academy? Especially when the local Junior & High schools are not academies and are no where near "outstanding".

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Bit late, there have been muslin academies for years as well as Jewish ones and ones the rich kids as well.

    Why are these stories so far behind the times? I could write better stories than this.

    What a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    #108 Pragmatic View.
    Labour introduced Academies as a measure to help out schools which were struggling, usually in deprived areas, to give them a chance of getting resources above and beyond the local rate provided by the Council.
    As always the Tories have corrupted a well intentioned idea.
    And admissions criteria haven't changed OFFICIALLY, but have nevertheless changed in many Academies.


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