Despite being advertised by Conservative Government ministers as a move to improve educational standards, the academisation legislation has been met with cross-party opposition. Headteachers have voiced concerns, teachers have threatened industrial action, and in April, the former Education Minister Nicky Morgan was heckled during the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) Conference.
We recently carried out a survey with school governors, in order to gauge their thoughts and concerns about the Government’s ongoing education reforms. Respondents expressed a lack of legal and financial knowledge, and highlighted a clear shortfall in the understanding of the academisation process.
Governors don’t agree with the Government’s plans
Teachers’ unions have put pressure on the Government to rethink its plans, something governors seem to be behind – in our survey a majority (81 per cent) of governors disagreed with the Government’s plans to continue towards academy conversion by the end of the decade.
There is, however, an understanding that if completed correctly with skilled and knowledgeable people who know how to make it work, an academy can succeed.
We asked a number of school governors, who are central figures in the transition of schools from local-authority-run academies to independent, state-funded trusts, how they feel about their involvement in the much-debated academy conversion process.
There were wide-ranging concerns from governors – from lack of knowledge gained during pre-academisation to who’s accountable for decisions when the new trust opens, and how all parties will be affected by a trust’s new status and organisational rearrangements.
52 per cent of governors received induction training when they first became a governor, and were relatively happy with it. When asked on a scale of 1-10 about the effectiveness of their inductions, the average score given was 8, which is very positive.
In addition, a majority said they have received ongoing training more than twice a year; again, results suggest the standard met their expectations.
Concerns about accountability for decisions
Despite no qualms about the adequacy of training, governors still raised plenty of issues, mainly down to a real grasp of the consequences of conversion for everyone involved.
One respondent said they suffered from a “lack of knowledge”; another had issues regarding the “powers they had on conversion”. There were questions on how legally-binding decisions made now will affect the academy in the future, and who will be held accountable for those decisions.
That alone suggests that the academy conversion process could – and should – be outlined more clearly and in a more easily-digestible format. Other concerns such as simple understanding around academy structures, and the skills required to make conversions work, reinforce this.
On a more personal level, governors said they are interested in how their roles, powers and influence, and indeed their own mindsets, will need to change if single academy trusts join with other trusts to form multi-academy trusts.
The government still plans to press ahead with the academisation of all failing schools, while the Church of England has recently announced its plans to open 125 free schools by 2020. However, it will be interesting to see what Justine Greening, newly appointed Education Secretary, will change, if anything.
Have your say or get in touch
We are looking to expand this research and you can be a part of it – complete our short survey now to have your say.
The academy conversion process can seem long and extremely complex if you don’t have sufficient assistance to help you through it – and that is where berg steps in. Call us on 0161 820 8587 to speak to our Education team.
You can also download our step-by-step guide to academy conversion for a simpler look at the process.