The role of academies in achieving a world-class education for all

At 9.45am on Friday 17 March, at the NEC, Birmingham, Rt Hon David Laws will be hosting a session at Bett Academies, looking at the role that academy schools play in achieving a world-class education for all children. He will be guiding attendees through the evolution of the academy schools programme, and the impact it has had on various areas of performance and achievement. With informed and practical advice on how to work within an academy to achieve a world-class level of education, this is a must-attend session for all academy and multi academy trust (MAT) leaders and teachers. Here, David gives us an insight into what we can expect from his session, and how academies have changed and developed under the previous two Governments. 


The performance of academy schools has been a subject of much conversation and debate in the education world, and understandably so. But to truly understand the impact they are having on our education system, we need to examine the facts – how they are performing in comparison to schools under local authorities (LAs) in terms of student achievement, wellbeing, level of progression and so on. Only then are we able to identify potential variation in performance across different types of schools and different locations, and then delve into the potential causes of this variation.


At Bett Academies this month, I will start off by looking at what evidence there is to support the belief that the academies programme has so far made an impact on educational standards in England, looking initially at the performance of the Labour sponsor academies that were set up by Tony Blair and his Government. I’ll be considering why this Government took steps to set up this programme, and what effects these sponsor academies have had, according to the academic data that has been collated. I will also be examining the impact this scheme had on the number of university applications, before turning my attention to the subsequent evolution of the academies and how they grew and developed under the Coalition Government with its converter and sponsor academies. I’ll be assessing the variation in performance between these academies, and exploring the possible reasons behind the differences in performance and impact.


Having discussed academies as a whole, I will then turn my attention to the variation in achievement among different academy groups and also how MATs have fared in comparison to LA groups, using the Education Policy Institute’s insights in this area to reveal the highest and lowest performing MATs and LA groups. Keen to explore the causes of variation in performance across different types of schools, I’ll be looking at the possible driving forces behind a school’s high or low performance, such as its geographical location, changes in leadership, freedom to innovate, the nature of the curriculum, recruitment of teachers, and so on.


Finally, I will consider the current Government’s academies policy and its challenges and pitfalls – such as geographical variation in performance. I’ll be looking at whether the strategy of encouraging all schools to become academies is a good idea, analysing both the pros and cons, and comparing this to a more organic evolution, the likes of which we’ve seen in the last couple of decades. This exploration of the evolution of the academy programme will enable me to share some key recommendations for academy leaders and MATs on how they can play a part in creating a world-class education for all. 


Find out more about David’s session at Bett Academies and register to attend for free here: