With the extensive list of proposals outlined in the government’s ‘White Paper’ published in March this year, change is on the horizon for many of Britain’s schools. One of the proposals is the radical academisation of all schools by 2022. This has paved the way for many individuals, businesses and other organisations to begin considering academy sponsorship and the benefits that it could bring. But what exactly does Academy Sponsorship involve and what will it mean for those involved?
The criteria to qualify for academy sponsorship are very wide ranging. Sponsors themselves can vary from charitable foundations, such as the Harris Federation or ARK Teacher Training, to individual sponsors, to small federations of schools. Academy sponsors are themselves responsible for a great many aspects of school life, including setting up the academy trust, appointing the leadership team, selecting the governing body, monitoring the academy’s performance and taking action where necessary. They also must report to the DfE about the academy’s performance, involve parents and the wider community in the academy’s work through events, make sure the academy spends its funding effectively and work with the academy trust, governing body, principal and senior leadership team. Clearly this extensive list requires extensive planning and commitment to the goal of academisation.
Another factor that may prove to be off-putting for potential Academy Sponsors is the responsibility and the obligation to either report to or manage several different institutions as part of a chain, or Multi-Academy Trust. Though the prospect of contributing towards the operation of a single school may be attractive to potential sponsors, that responsibility becoming exaggerated through the formation of a MAT may mean that passionate sponsors may become disillusioned with the idea.
Though the list of commitments is extensive and may in some cases prove off-putting to sponsors, there are also a number of positives that prospective sponsors can point to in support of the notion. The academisation proposals provide an opportunity for enterprising or invested individuals to have greater autonomy and establish their own ethos over how education should be provided. This scenario could foreseeably create a situation where the results of differing approaches allow our whole education system to become increasingly developed and evolve naturally. Sponsors are also given the opportunity to, at their own discretion, make financial contributions to the running of a particular school in order to try and boost pupil attainment. Although the ethics of this are questionable, as it may give some schools an edge over others, the opportunity for individuals or associated parties to make a discernible difference to pupil education is an extremely tempting and morally rewarding offer.
The issue of academisation clearly presents a number of potential problems for all aspects of the education system as we know it. Though academy sponsors have the chance to be at the forefront of something exciting and innovative, there is a chance that this approach will adversely affect children’s education. What is clear is that academy sponsorship makes you as an individual or group directly responsible for the results of your involvement. There’s a lot of pressure, but also potential for reward.