Academies: where are we at, what comes next and how can schools and trusts best explain it to their stakeholders?  

Tiffany Beck

Senior Account Director - Head of Education

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PLMR is pleased to release our new briefing looking at the current state of the school system in England as it is now on the cusp of its 10,000th academy.  

The briefing, Academies: where are we at and what comes next?, offers an overview of what the school system currently looks like and the direction it is headed in, and helps to frame strategic thinking either for schools which are considering becoming an academy or for trusts which are considering growth.  

It also sheds light on the current and future education landscape for those who are interested in how it is shaping.  

The briefing uses data from the Department for Education to show that academies are not just a subcategory within the school system, increasingly they are the school system, with more than half of children and young people already attending one.  

As the school system is rapidly approaching the 10,000th academy opening, the logic of a continued fragmentation with the school system split between academy and local authority maintained schools may not make sense for much longer. In addition to a desire for collaborative structures for school improvement, the likelihood of all schools being part of a trust may also now be down to the statistics and logistics as opposed to politics or ideology.  

The briefing recommends that, given this landscape, schools and trusts should carefully consider how to best support their pupils and staff moving forward.  

PLMR suggests a number of questions and factors for schools and trusts to consider in order to strategically shape their future. This is by no means an exhaustive due diligence list, but rather a starting point for thinking about the best options for a school or trust, given the current landscape, in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for both pupils and staff. 

How can schools and trusts considering the possibility of becoming part of or growing a school trust best convey their decisions to their stakeholders?  

The answer is to be clear on your vision and values and ensure your messaging focuses on: 

  • Why: The need to secure every possible opportunity to ensure high-quality education for pupils.   
  • How: Giving staff access to the highest standards of professional development, fulfilling career pathways and opportunities to engage in meaningful collaboration to share learning and further develop practice and curriculum.  
  • What: High quality teachers and staff in the classroom using their expertise to continuously improve teaching, learning and the quality of education for children and young people.

 

The educational landscape looks likely to continue to shift towards a system in which all schools are part of a school trust. Whilst much of that shift is down to the structures of a school trust which enable the quality of education, innovation and collaboration within schools to continuously improve, we believe we are approaching a tipping point which will find practicalities and logistics increasingly become part of the impetus for conversion.   

But the key thing may be about thinking beyond one school gate, or one trust office – the rationale for every step on this path should be about creating better schoolsby creating better trusts by creating a better system. Rather than to do the same old things better, the education system must be designed to do better things.  

The academy sector is still young enough both to be moulded and to mould the wider school system. The strength of the leaders within it now can help to shape what it looks like for generations to come. We hope those schools and trusts who carefully consider the questions and factors outlined in our briefing now, will be well-prepared for a future that is system-designed and led, as opposed to government policy-designed and led. 

View the full report here. 

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