Since the announcement that all schools are to become academies by 2022 there have been comments both in favour and against the change from all over the education community. But what can those with teaching and teaching assistant jobs actually expect from the change, and will it be a good thing for the students?
When all schools become academies head teachers will have more control over how to approach the curriculum and what to do with their school’s budget, so they will control the level of pay and training their staff will receive. You would hope that this would mean the needs of teachers are met as a head teacher will know more about what their staff need than anyone from the local area authority who are unlikely to have experience working in that school, or experience working in any school for that matter.
It is obvious that this level of control will mean an academy is only as good as the leaders who run it, and this article from the Guardian details some of the problems that the transition into an academy can cause. The changes in teachers’ salaries, the proposed lengthening of the school day and changes to the whole school’s approach to education are difficult things for any school leader to manage regardless of their experience. You can expect some mistakes in the beginning, but hopefully most leaders will see that they should always try to consider the needs of teachers. Teachers are already struggling from stress, so a focus on teacher’s workload is important and plans to have a longer school day should be supplemented with additional support or more time set aside for PPA, which is something it is easier for academies to provide compared to state schools. Luckily with less government control comes less red tape, so under the new system schools will be able to react to the challenges and problems that arise with the transition and should be far quicker at rectifying them.
The change to academies is supposed to mean more freedom for schools but it is worth mentioning that a school’s freedom is limited by more than the rules and regulations and you should not expect them to exercise as much freedom as they are legally allowed to. For example, academy leaders can choose which subjects they want their school to teach. However, many of the vocational, unpopular options may not be added to a school’s curriculum as they are still trying to satisfy the parents and earn places on the school league tables. In addition, you should not forget how a school’s ownership will affect the way they operate. There are already massive expansions of multi-academy trusts and more and more new ones will be opening under the new system. These school chains are led by governors and chief executives who will know a lot about running schools, but as each school is subject to the chain’s governors the individual school leaders might not have as much say over the running of their school and they’re the ones with the first-hand experience of it. For example, funding all comes from the centre of an MAT and it is the trustees and leaders of the chain that distribute it and try to work out how much each school needs to receive. However, all the schools will want extra funds so the actual amount a school receives will at least partly rely on the head teacher’s ability to argue their case.
Under the new system all schools that are considered less than Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ will need sponsorship from a trust, charity or private company and originally all business sponsors were supposed to be dynamic companies with good ideas for helping to run the school but no actual stake in education. However, writing in his blog Building Trust, Mike Cameron describes his fears over what will happen now more schools are going to be in need of sponsorship. He feels that currently the rules and regulations that cover who can become and school sponsor are unclear and more must be done to ensure trustee to trust financial transactions don’t happen. He also believes that there needs to be more clarification over who owns a school’s land when they become part of an MAT and, if it then fails, and it is moved to a different academy trust, who owns the land then?
In summary although the idea of giving head teachers and other experts more control over the running of their schools makes a lot of sense. Many feel there is still a long way to go in regards to developing rules and regulations that will protect the best interest of schools, teachers and students in the new academy system.