The government is planning to introduce a new education bill in the autumn which could include measures to force more schools to become academies
UNISON wants to see an integrated comprehensive education system. However, in recent years the government has been undermining schools linked to local authorities and focused on getting schools to convert to becoming academies. Several thousand former maintained schools have now become academies, including the majority of secondary schools.
In the Budget in March 2016t the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that all schools would be required to become academies by 2022. Further details were outlined the following day by the Department for Education (DfE) . These proposals caused uproar, so in May the government changed their position, saying they would not force all schools to become academies, but would introduce new legislation that would enable the DfE to convert maintained schools to academies in ‘under-performing or unviable local authorities’.
The summer of 2016 saw a new prime minister and a new secretary of State for Education and so at this time we do not know if the government will go ahead with their original plans. But we do know that current legislation means that more and more schools are becoming academies and UNISON needs to support our members.
Whilst opposing this forced academy programme we are also totally committed to organising and recruiting school support staff in schools that have become academies.
Some UNISON branches working with other unions and local communities will be able to campaign against academy conversions and resources and materials to aid this can be found here.
However, we are also aware that in other areas schools will continue to become academies and it is important that we are able to support members in these schools. Materials and resources for branches to organise and support members in academy schools are listed below.
We will continue to make new resources available for organising in academy schools.
What is an Academy School?
Academies are schools in England that are funded directly by the Department for Education (DfE) and operate independently of the local authority.
Academies are self-governing non-profit charitable trusts. They control their own admissions process and they don’t have to follow the national curriculum. They also have the power to extend the school day and to break from national agreements which set school support staff pay, terms and conditions.
There are essentially two types of academy.
- “Converter” academies are those where the school governors apply for academy status (so the school becomes a standalone academy in its own right).
- “Sponsored” academies are schools that the government has labelled as “underperforming” and put under the control of an academy sponsor
An academy trust that operates more than one academy is known as a Multi Academy Trust. An academy with an official faith designation is sometimes referred to as a Faith Academy. When a school converts on its own it’s known as a Single Academy Trust.
Free Schools are totally new schools with the same legal status and ‘freedoms’ as Academies.
There are essentially two ways a school can become an Academy:
- The School Governing body voluntarily applies to the DfE for the school to covert to an Academy – they have to consult with the local community and parents as part of the application process to convert
- The DfE forces a school that the Government has labelled as ‘underperforming’ into academy status – so the local community, parents and teachers are not taken into account.