A mountain high enough

This is a bit of a follow up to the previous post, Joining the Dots, which contained some stats about the current state of academies in England. Surprisingly this gained a significant number of readers, proving there is a market for dry statistical analysis. I think it speaks to the lack of well presented information on this issue coming from either DfE or the media. This is not to overstate the case for the post being well presented, it’s just that when it comes to information about academisation there is a fairly low bar.

After posting the information I was contacted by a kind spirit who had already done some work on this and thought the following data they had been working on might be of interest. All presentation and commentary are down to me, as are any errors in the data.

Growth of Academy Numbers

The first chart shows how the numbers of open academies (this time including Free Schools, UTCs and Studio Schools) has grown since September 2010.


As you can see, it’s been quite a steady rate of growth at around 80 schools per month although this rate has slowed over the past year to 56 per month. This splits down into:

  Overall Past Year
Secondary 30 per month 10
Primary 46 per month and 42
Other 4 per month 4

Now the DfE have announced their grand “every school becomes and academy” plan there’s a bit of work to do. The Primary number must be the one that concerns DfE the most – it is down from a peak of 65 schools per month in 2014. The suggestion is that most schools would become academies by 2020 (let us say 90%) and the rest by 2022.

Let’s see how this looks on a similar chart.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 17.20.33

The green line takes us from the current numbers up to 90% of schools. The blue line completes the job. The red line is an approximation of what might happen if the overall rate of expansion continues. If the current rate of expansion continues then the actual number converting will be below that line. As you can see, there is a veritable mountain to climb. To meet the 2020 target the expansion rate has to more than triple to around 250 schools per month.

Now I am sure that with the right incentives (sticks, carrots, whatever) DfE can ‘persuade’ that many schools to convert, but that’s only half the battle. There are legal issues to deal with that are quite time consuming if they are to be done properly. I wonder where in the system there exists the capacity to manage this process? There is the possibility that this conversion process will bring DfE and all the LAs grinding to a halt.

Not to mention the additional workload this will place on schools over the period.

LA Information

There are a number of things that you could look at regarding LAs – %age conversion, highest, lowest etc. What I was interested in is was there any relationship between the numbers of schools in the LA and the percentage converted already. This might indicate that there was some plan afoot.

So if we plot the percentage conversions against the number of schools in the LA (for secondary) we get:-


So, almost zero correlation between the two. We can see that where there is 100% conversion it is with a smaller number of schools, but there are generally more LAs with a smaller of schools.

When you look at Primaries, you get a similar picture – no real relationship.


But it does get slightly interesting when you look at Primary Conversion vs Secondary Conversions.


So here there is a small correlation, which might indicate that there is some sort of planning going on in the LAs. Or it might just be random noise in the data. Give what we know about the whole academisation process so far, I’m putting my money on the latter.

No prizes, but any guesses as which LA that is with the red ring around it, with the most Secondaries and Primaries converted by proportion?

So we can see that there is a massive job of work to be done if the government are serious about their plan. However, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan currently working behind this. Some LAs are starting from a very low base for both secondary and primary. This not only presents a problem from the point of view of the work required to make the conversions but it indicates that there is still a significant amount to be done reconfiguring the services currently provided to schools by the LAs. Meaning upcoming disruption to services to schools and more job loses.

The only way I can see that total conversion can take place is if the process is changed considerably and moves to being a straight imposition of a standard funding agreement and Memorandum and Articles along with a standardised governance system.

Otherwise this just won’t happen.

And looking at the level of disruption compared to the proven benefit rendered it is legitimate to ask whether it should happen at all.



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