Government academies announcement

Primary school leaders should ‘look to the positives’ following controversial government academies announcement As the dust settles on the recent government academies announcement a leading educational resource and training provider has urged head teachers to ‘take stock and seek advice’ before pushing ahead with ‘monumental changes’. The Focus Education-led call to action comes as many school leaders and unions voice concerns about a lack of allocated funding to facilitate the transition, as well as fears about private-sector involvement in the new structure. The latest news also comes as expectations around educational standards continue to increase, and following a Budget which revealed plans to roll out an ‘achieving educational excellence everywhere’ strategy – putting additional pressure on teachers and school leaders.

But with the new era of education now firmly on the horizon Focus Education founder and former school inspector, Clive Davies, says ‘positivity is key’ when it comes to ensuring that the transition process runs smoothly, and that potential benefits are fully appreciated to make a difference for children. Before establishing Focus in 1993, Clive worked as a headteacher and then as an inspector, leading inspections in more than 200 schools. Clive notes: “Whilst I regularly engage in discussion with school leaders regarding concerns that they have surrounding increased pressure, bureaucracy and diminishing funding, few topics have received quite as much air time as ‘academies.” From working with hundreds of headteachers and school leaders Clive has found that most people don’t fundamentally object to the alternative to a local authority run school, although there are some very valid concerns about the way they are structured – largely regarding a lack of forced-transparency and the role that private organisations play in what should always be a ‘student-first’ sector. Reflecting on work with schools and academies across the length and breadth of England, Clive notes: “With the government saying that the requirement for all schools to transition by 2022 is a ‘done deal’, focus now needs to be on making the most of the situation and looking to the future in order to maximise the benefits and even take advantage of the freedoms an academy structure brings with it.” Just this week Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted as saying that the move would ‘finish the job’; with 5,200 academies currently open across all age groups (excluding around a further 400 free schools, studio schools and University Technical Colleges. Since September 2010, 2,949 Primary Schools have become academies, 943 of which are ‘sponsored academies’ – with sponsors including businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups, who have majority control of the academy trust. The remaining 2,006 converter academies do not have sponsors and are schools previously assessed as 'performing well' that have chosen to make the transition to academy status. Focus Education, which is set to host a series of ‘Becoming an Academy’ events this summer providing insight and guidance on how to approach the transition, is the sponsor of the charitable multi-academy trust, Focus Trust, which was established in 2013. Clive continued: “Whether you agree with the enforcement of the academies transition or not – and the general consensus is not – our experience is that being involved in a trust that is run in a positive and proactive way is a good thing. “Processes can be more efficient leading to more effective decision making, and there are certain freedoms which are notably absent in more traditional set-ups. “There are experts that can help school leaders to be pro-active to help ensure the process is not rushed. By taking stock, evaluating options, seeking advice and following a timetable that is right for you and your school, it is far more likely to reach the end point that is also right for your school.” Focus Education’s ‘Becoming an Academy’ events are aimed at primary school leaders and governors and will provide real life learning and lessons learned about becoming an academy. Interested delegates can find out more information on the company’s website here: http://bit.ly/1SUmdYf

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