There are many different types of schools within the UK, from privately funded schools to free schools. In the middle are academies. A lot of the primary schools in the UK are academies, and most of the secondary schools are academies, with a lot of trusts managing those. However, while they are so common, many people may ask, what is an academy school?
Academies are schools that are funded directly by the government unlike standard schools which are funded by local authorities. The academy has more control over the things that occur in the school, like the term dates and school times. The majority of academies are part of a trust, which are charity bodies, and may be a part of a chain of schools by the trust.
In this article we will be talking about the differences between academies and other schools, how schools change into academies, and also how it may benefit the student. Read on to find out more.
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What is an academy?
Academies are schools that are funded directly by the government. The headteacher or principal has the most power of the function of the school, including term dates, curriculum, and the start/end time of schools, instead of the council. Another thing they can control is admissions, so they can choose to have entry tests. The school is overseen by an academy trust. They can employ staff, create a governing body, and the things that the local council may want to do, but instead can do it themselves. According to this article from the BBC, in 2016, 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools were academies, while 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools were academies. To find out more, you can click on this link to the government website.
Are academy schools free?
Academy schools are funded by the government, so are completely free. Some confusion can arise when talking about private schools. Like academies, they have more freedom over how they run the school. However, private schools are not academies – academies are free and state-funded, private schools are not. For more information on academies, have a look at this Think Student article.
What is the difference between an academy and a standard school?
The local council usually runs a standard school. As a result, the schools have less control over the functions of the school, and the day-to-day running of the school. Academies are not run by the local council, but by their academy trust and/or principal. Because of this, they can control a lot more things, like their term dates, teacher training days, school times, who they employ, land and assets and their curriculum, giving them more freedom in their functions.
Why do schools convert into academies?
Schools may convert into academies for 3 reasons. This could be due to the law, or by choice.
- The school may be forced to turn into an academy by the law – if a school is judged inadequate by Ofsted, it then must become an academy. It can join a trust, but the main reason for this is due to the school underperforming. It is believed that by turning into an academy, the trust that runs it can improve the standards of the school. Up until 2018, there was also a law stating that schools with bad average exam results must also convert into academies.
- The school may choose to turn into an academy, even if it is deemed good or outstanding by Ofsted – these are called converter schools. The school in question may think that it can further improve its standards by turning into an academy or might just want to have more freedom in its day to day running. Either way, the school is doing it by its own choice.
- The final reason is because the school is looking to be sponsored – this is called sponsored academies. It is usually seen that those that get sponsored are underperforming or have a large area for improvement. As a result, a trust or sponsor comes to the school to try and sponsor it, for its improvement. The other reason could be that the school just wants to join a trust. This is also quite common. The school would like to join the trust for its own reasons, and to receive and join the governing body of that trust, giving them substantial benefits.
No matter the reason, the school usually has its own reasons. You can find out more about this, by clicking on this link to an article by stonegroup.co.uk on the topic.
What are the benefits of academies?
- The school will receive more freedom in its day-to-day running – As mentioned before, the academy has more freedom in the running of the school, so it is able to change many features. This can bring many benefits to the students such as the way the lessons are taught, or even the curriculum taught.
- Academisation increases standards of education – studies suggest that a school turning into an academy increases the standards of the school, especially in disadvantaged areas. This is due to the chance for external investment or sponsors, giving the school higher budgets and opportunities, instead of the budget struck by local
- The status of the trust makes the school look more impressive – if the school joins a trust that is known to host well performing schools, this can make the academies inside it seem more impressive. On paper, this can help on your CV or other applications, when the applications team sees that the applicant went to a supposedly good school.
What are the downsides of academies?
- Converting into academies does not improve the standards straight away – Some schools may be different or doing something wrong about which they don’t know. As a result, academisation does not help them, and in some cases can further worsen standards.
- A custom curriculum is not always good – some schools may prioritise, or not even give opportunities for, certain subjects. As a result, the custom curriculum can actually harm the student’s education, and can limit their future options. While most schools choose to stick to the national curriculum, there are some instances where this has occurred.
How do you get into an academy?
Getting into an academy is usually similar, if not the same, as applying for any other secondary school. The only difference really is that some academies may choose to add entrance exams. These are typically grammar schools – to learn more about this type of school, check out this article from Think Student. In this case, you will need to take these exams into consideration if you are deciding where to apply.