The academy programme, started by the last government and expanded by the present government, is likely to provide the stimulus for the biggest change in education in England since the development of comprehensive education. The key question for all schools is whether it is a structure that can improve and develop education for their own pupils and the pupils of other schools in their locality.
There is a lot of rhetoric around from all sides and it is very difficult for individual schools to come to a decision about the advantages and disdavantages of staying with the locla authority or becoming an academy.
MGA has looked hard and long at the whole question over the last six months or so. From a commercial point of view, we are happy to work with schools under LA control or those that go for academy status. We have many regular client schools in England that are both LA controlled or are academies. The improtnat thing for us is that we do conduct high quality services for our client schools and provide excellent value for money.
However, from an educational point of view, we view the academy programme as an alternative way forward to meet the changing demands of society in the 21st century. It may not suit all schools but it will certainly help some schools who are not, at present, getting a good deal from the current system. Also, there is no doubt that there are still too many pupils that the education system is failing and far too many local authorities managing education services poorly and not providing the support schools need to meet the demands of their local communities.
The current education system was designed in the nineteenth century Victorian era to meet Victorian society's needs. The 21st century has very different demands and schools need the authority and decision making process to meet the needs of their local community. Often the school's local community is much smaller than the local authority's community. Time and time again, schools approach MGA because the local authority is not meeting their needs because they are not part of the local authority's main area of priority. A current example of local authority failure for some schools is the School Improvement Partner programme which has been a comprehensiuve and expensive failure for many schools who find that their SIP changes regularly and that the SIp follows the local authority priorities without any real regard of what is important for the school and its pupils.
Our conclusion to the academy initiative is therefore a simple one. Use the initiative to work with other schools in your immediate locality and do not go to academy status on your own. Use a nationally operating Academy Trust to obtain national and international benefits so that you are not only operating within the local community but are also operating at a national and world level.
1. Form regional trusts that have the key aim of meeting the needs of your local community.
2. Link the local Trust to a national Trust so that you are working within an umbrella organisation that enables you to obtain the same financial benefits you already obtain from the local authority.
3. Use the national Trust as an organisation that shares best practice nationally as well as internationally. Use it as a direct way to be innovative within a protective environment so that you achieve an educational provision for your pupils that is truly world class.
4. Continue to work with your local authority to help you to meet you local community needs.