Independent state schools
There are now several types of academy covering all stages of education up to the age of 18. All academies are independent state-funded schools, with greater freedom to make curriculum and finacial decisions but with no extra funding. Academies are all funded directly from central government and accountable to the Secretary of State. However, different types of academy have different characteristics.
Sponsored academies are the government’s intervention strategy of choice. Almost all have predecessor schools which have been low attaining schools, usually in urban areas of high deprivation. Most established sponsored academies share some common characteristics:
- new leadership
- new governance
- new legal status
- new name
- new uniform
- sometimes a new building.
They have 4 key objectives:
- raising standards
- developing innovation practices
- working in partnership with business, community groups and local schools
- contributing to community regeneration.
The number of sponsored academies will continue to grow. Criteria for identifying new sponsored academies, applied to primary, secondary and special schools, is:
- attainment is low and pupils progress poorly
- Ofsted judge the school to be eligible for intervention
- there is a record of low attainment over time
- pupils in secondary schools achieve poorly compared with schools with similar intakes.
Converter academies were introduced by the new government in 2010. Every school can choose to become an academy, provided that strong performers work in partnership with others to raise standards. Schools not rated ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good with Outstanding Features’ by Ofsted can apply to become an academy but need to demonstrate favourably:
- exam performance over the last three years
- comparison with local and national performance
- latest Ofsted findings regarding capacity to improve, outcomes and leadership
- any other matters that the school may rely on to demonstrate that it is performing well.
Converter academies do not recruit a new headteacher and staff TUPE across under the same terms and conditions.
An academy chain is where two or more schools apply in a formal partnership to convert to academy status. Being part of a chain enables schools to benefit from the freedoms of academy status, work together to share expertise and services and so increase value for money and improve standards.
A federation is the name sometimes given to one of the models of academy chain; schools can have their own or shared Academy Trust and Governing Body.
Free Schools are academies which are entirely new to the state sector – they are either new schools or independent schools becoming state schools. Free Schools must be set up in response to demand from parents and groups applying to set up Free Schools must submit a petition from parents with children of relevant ages for the particular school they wish to found.
The groups which set up Free Schools vary widely – from groups of teachers, to existing academy sponsors, existing schools and parents. What unites them is a desire for a new high quality school. The vast majority of groups applying to set up Free Schools are either a) setting up schools in areas of deprivation and under-performance or b) setting up schools in areas where there are not enough school places.
Like other academies, Free Schools are held to account through Funding Agreements which set out their financial responsibilities and expectations of performance.
An existing school cannot convert to a Studio School, but can choose to sponsor a new one. Studio Schools are a new type of small state schools for 14-19 year olds. They typically have around 300 places.
Studio Schools are designed to be comprehensive in ability ranges, but are aimed at those who will achieve their full potential through project based leaning. All Studio Schools will provide the National Curriculum with particular emphasis on English, maths and double science.
Post-GCSE qualifications will be determined by each Studio School. Employability skills will be developed both through project based learning and paid work placements.
University Technical Colleges (UTC)
Like Studio Schools, an existing school cannot convert to a UTC but can choose to sponsor one. University Technical Colleges are also a new concept in education. They offer 14-19 year olds the opportunity to take a highly regarded, full time, technically-orientated course of study.
UTCs are set up as academies with the same powers as Free Schools. Proposals are judged against a set of criteria, which can be found of the Department for Education website. They are equipped to the highest standard, sponsored by a university and offer clear progressions routes into higher education or further learning in work.
Students combine hand and mind to learn in a very practical way, integrating the National Curriculum requirements with the technical and vocational elements. The college ethos and curriculum is heavily influenced by local and national employers who also provide support and work experience for students.