In the foothills

In March I looked at the Academies and Free Schools data release and produced some analysis of the numbers in this post. Today the DfE released a further update so I thought six months later I’d have a look to see what had changed.

In summary, and to save you from having a look at the spreadsheet, I‘d have to say that on the surface the answer is “Not a lot, really.”

The headline is that the number of open Academies (not including Free Schools) has risen from a total of 5,170 to the current figure of 5,671, an increase of 501.

I’m not going to produce the same level of analysis as before but note that the number of chains with 10 or more schools in has barely changed. However there is some consolidation in the 5-9 size range.

Overall the number of MATs with more than one school has increased from 517 in March to 745 today. Additionally the number of single schools designated as a MAT, has gone from 210 in March to 282 today. So a total increase in the number of MATs by 300. This is probably the single most significant number to come out of the data release. This is possibly the only part of the release that might give the DfE some belief that its plan might work. But it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

A second post around the same time looked at the growth that would be necessary to meet the DfE intention of a fully academised system by 2022. The chart below showed what was required.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 17.20.33The green line showed the increase required to get to from the march numbers to 90% of schools. The blue line completed the job. The red line was an approximation of what might happen if the overall rate of expansion continued. In March the rate of expansion was below the red line.

So what has happened in the past six months?

Open Academies Per Month
March Sept Change Last 6m prior 12m
Primary 2949 3,359 410 68 42
Secondary 2007 2,059 52 9 10
Other 214 253 39 7 4
Grand Total 5170 5,671 501 84 56

If we look at the changes in the last six months we can see that the rate of expansion has increased from 56 schools per month converting (in the 12 month period to March 2016) to 84 per month in the past six months. Considering the DfE has done everything it can to sabotage the conversion rate this can be considered a bit of a surprise. It is, however, way below the more than 250 schools per month required to complete the change.

The DfE contends that it is still wedded to the idea of a fully academised system by 2022. The figures above suggest that they are still going to struggle to make this happen. It will be interesting to see what impact the release of the Green Paper has on the rate of change. My thought is that it will have caused considerable confusion over the aims of the department and will have a deadening effect.

The one ray of sunshine (from the DfEs perspective) is the increase in the number of MATs. This is the bit below the surface. This provides a larger base of sponsors, which might help accelerate the conversions per month as the years go by, especially if most of the near 282 single school MATs also start sponsoring schools.

Whilst it is only six months worth of figures the numbers I can’t see that they will get anywhere near full conversion unless they find more incentives for MATs to form and grow. I have a few thought about what they might be, which I will share in the next post.