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 538.

    Katz @533
    Apologies for edit
    But your sense taken @524 & @533
    And my sense stands

    Taking "fairness" as "equal opportunity" dooms to more "years & years"

    Similarly, treating "fairness" in society as "a different issue entirely"

    Good to know of your determination @536, already clear to me

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    I'm all for segregating the brightest from the rest. Otherwise they'll just get dragged down.

    And what's the point of working hard to be middle class if you can't use it to get advantage over people at the bottom!

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    For the record, I care passionately about education, having been inspired at the tender age of 5 by a fabulous teacher.

    Sadly, family circs prevented me from going into teaching, but I have retained my passion for quality in all things, including education,

    At 50, I still believe in aspiring to do your best in all things & to inspire the same in others, whatever that may be, is the right thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    517.All for All
    37 Minutes ago
    I do not understand what you are trying to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    Fewer and fewer opportunities to comment on the BBC's web site. Is this a deliberate attempt by the BBC to close down comment and criticism? I note that the key issues of the day, Europe, the US comments on the UK's membership have been cut off and that the Germans comments today have no available commentary. Could this be a BBC bias coming through yet again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    531. All for All
    Somewhat unfair to misqute my earlier posts.

    My ref to 'talk' related to the continuous navel=gazing re acadamy/state/segregation/selecion etc etc argument that wages yr after yr after yr without taking anything forwards at a meaningful level in terms of kids' education.

    I did not even attempt to get into the fair/equal opps issue as that's a different issue entirely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    I understand your reasons, but disagree with your suggested actions.

    How will the children you teach come to understand how to debate the relative merits of an argument if they are denied access to all sides of an argument?

    If the only access they have to the world of work is teachers, then that is severely limiting their horizons and choices.

    We owe them more than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    "talk does nothing"?

    "Taking things forward", meaning employment & income for all?

    "Making more equal opportunity", making power & misery 'fairer'?

    "Talk' has to be intelligent, on power & responsibility

    Sham democracy fails: management of People, for & by Rich

    Warlords rule poor states, plutocrats the West

    Internet to teach fast: understand & demand Equal Partnership

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    10 Hours ago
    How could the following (from my daughter's 'non-religious' school, run by a creationist Head) be considered 'fuelling segregation:
    so why do you send her there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    520. paul

    Why is the teaching profession not actively involved in education policy?
    Same reason that medical professionals were ditched in favour of the Goldman Sachs of business consultancies,McKinseys - the result being the farce that is the shambolic Privatisation Policy with no Risk Register.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    How is one person (Gove) able to affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of children's futures, with no consultation or opposition, by making sweeping ideological reforms based on a book he has read by the pool.
    Is this a democracy?
    I hope he comes to visit our school. I will turn him away from my classroom as teachers are able to refuse entry to any visitor who is NOT a qualified teacher!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    I got educated largely, in a mixed ability group from age 5-11.

    Streaming (not segregation) from age 11-16.

    On my own from then.

    Being in a mixed ability group allowed me to understand from an early age that others do not always have the same skills as me.

    Different, but not necessarily less.

    A good lesson to learn.

    Laziness does not always = stupidity: far from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Elitism is a reality, it used to be society and class, The London marathon has ELITE sportsmen, so that makes the rest plebs.
    Subtle difference though Phil - Elite sportsmen get there on merit usually.
    An average history graduate - who had the best education money can buy - somehow became Chancellor. His experience? - shop assistant in a posh Knightsbridge store.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    I wonder what would happen if the majority of state schools became selective. The Local Ed. Authorities ensured provision is met for ALL children of ALL abilities. Gove is killing the LEA's with the academies, therby killing provision for ALL. The attitude of this CONSERVATIVE government is that children from council estates don't deserve an education do they because their parents don't pay taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    Childrens' futures are too precious to squander on the heap of political correctness, aspiration, experimentation, or other vanity projects of politicians or educationalists.

    All this talk of segregation, acadamy or whatever does nothing to take things forward or make things more equal in opportunity.

    'Til that is done, the rest is meaningless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    Kingfisherphil @518
    "Does it matter?"

    Millennia of roles for 'inheritance' & 'physical command' in social 'opportunities', not by pure intelligence

    Are Tories taking us backwards, to happily mixed warlord days?

    Might Labour achieve 'perfect selection of masters', on what measure(s)?

    If of 'pure cold intelligence', in a culture still of fear & greed, our children might regret 'the advance'

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    What is wrong with segregating clever and high-achieving pupils (who can come from all backgrounds) from the anti-social, stupid and lazy ones? The idea that mixing them together somehow makes for some notion of 'equality' simply defies reality. All it does is drag standards down and discourage excellence. When will 20th century socialist dogma finally die?

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    Academies are a big fat fail. They basically become ego trips for the school leadership, who dont teach. They are selective and create division, they take money from other schools in a LEA area, they are almost as bad as free schools and faith schools.
    No real standards, you dont even need teaching qualifications to teach there......

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    Why is the teaching profession not actively involved in education policy?
    It is done by politicians with political ideologies and with tax payers money. It should be about what is best for the education of future generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    Sadly, Labours ideas are misguided, gov'ts cannot overcome the damage done by bad parents.
    So no more hugs then?


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