Friday, 27 May 2011

Understanding LACSEG

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Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) is paid to academies in recognition of the fact that as independent schools they no longer receive a number of services from local authorities (LAs), and must make appropriate provision for themselves.

This can cover, but is not limited, to such things as:

Behaviour support services
Maternity cover, long-term sickness, supply cover
Establishing eligibility for Free School Meals
Repair and maintenance
Museum and library services
School admissions
Termination of employment costs
Health-related services
Parent partnership guidance and information
Monitoring of SEN provision
Pupil support
Eucation welfare service
School improvement
Asset management
music services, visual and performing arts, outdoor education
Premature retirement and redundancy
Monitoring national curriculum assessment

THIS DOCUMENT gives a full description of how LACSEG is calculated.

The following comments courtesy of commentator Peter Downes

Which schools gain most?
The real ‘winners’ are larger schools, with relatively few pupils who
will need extra help, few social problems requiring EWS input, with recently refurbished buildings with low maintenance, in areas which are not facing demographic decline, with staff who are male or beyond child-bearing age.

BUT.....the consultation on school funding 2011-2012 states in paragraph 73:
 "The Government is clear that becoming an Academy should not bring about a financialadvantage or disadvantage to a school."

What will Academies spend their extra money on?
Clearly, an Academy takes on many extra responsibilities and will need to recruit extra administrative staff to handle these. If the Academy does not have many pupils who will need to draw on the extra help previously available from the LAA, or if the academy chooses not to do so, and if the Academy decides it does not need to buy in school support or school improvement advice (as it is already deemed ‘outstanding’), it will undoubtedly have a net financial bonus..

According to local circumstances, the Academy will, for example, spend its extra money on:
Extra teaching staff for smaller class sizes
Better equipment and teaching materials
Higher salaries for the Head and for senior teachers (Academies no longer have to follow the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document)

The effect of this could be to
Enable it to attract the best teaching staff from other schools with the offer of better pay

Introduce an inflationary effect into the senior salary structure (with long-term knock-on effect on the Teacher Pension system)

Enable it to attract more pupils, thereby increasing its net extra income further and reducing the cost-effectiveness of neighbouring schools.

Make this already successful school even more successful

The ethical issue: is it right to condone a development that will inevitably widen the gap between the most and least successful, improve opportunities for the most fortunate and reduce support for those who need it most?

The financial issue: in a time of austerity is it right that there should be double-funding? In due course the LACSEG component will surely be fully recouped from the LA, or alternatively, the national amount available through the Dedicated Schools Grant formula will be reduced.

And what about central costs? All this will be administered on a school-by-school basis by the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA). Where will the extra money for this come from?

Conclusion?: The Academies development is costly, unethical, divisive and inequitable.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Public Meeting

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A public meeting  to discuss the proposed conversion of GHS to an academy took place at the Crofters Hotel last night.

The meeting was very well attended, although regrettably, no representatives of the school governors or management team were in attendance to explain the thinking behind the proposed move, or to respond to any questions parents wanted to put.

Many had come, not only hoping to hear a detailed explanation of how and why the move to academy status would be of benefit to the school, but also to question how the move would effect such matters as school governance, accountability, special needs provision, effects on staff and pupils, the wider effect on the Lancashire family of schools and on education policy and provision in general.

In this regard then, from the schools point of view, it seems that meaningful consultation consists of a few bullet point letters to parents informing them that academy status would be a 'good thing', a few press releases, an invitation to write in to the school expressing your views, or to make an appointment to go into the school to discuss matters further.

Well, I think it would be fair to say, that a consensus view of the meeting last night would hold that that approach amounts to treating the legitimate concerns of significant stakeholder groups with a sort of withering contempt in the face of what may well be the most significant change to take place at GHS over its entire history.

In the remaining three or so weeks before the governors hold an EGM to make a final decision, all that parents and others can do is to contact the school directly and make it clear that this really is not quite good enough.

What on earth is the rush?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Poor teachers could be sacked 'within a term'

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By Hannah Richardson - BBC News education reporter

Poor teachers could be ousted from England's schools within a term, under government plans to make it easier for heads to get rid of under-performing staff.

Read the Rest

Academies: research into the leadership of sponsored and converting academies

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Findings from a project looking at leadership of sponsored and converting academies and how academy leadership might be distinctive from other schools.  The study also explores what the conversion process is like in practice, the importance of context, changes in governance and working with others and what implications academy status can have on leadership development.

"Therefore..... notwithstanding the desire for less involvement by the local authority and an expressed desire to go it alone by leaders in these academies, many do continue to buy in at least some of the services previously provided by their local authority, including HR, SEN, educational welfare services and insurance. However, a number of case study schools noted that whilst some of the services were of high quality, they felt that since becoming an academy, costs for the services provided by the local authority had increased so much that they were no longer seen as good value for money." [P.49.]

Read the Rest

Monday, 23 May 2011

Q&A: Academies

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The coalition government has invited all schools in England to become academies. The Academies Act of July 2010 brought in the necessary legislation for the changes. The BBC News website examines key questions about academies.

A useful round-up of some basic questions and answers concerning academies.

Read the Rest

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Public Meeting to Discuss GHS Academy Status

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As we have previously been informed that no public meetings are to be organised by the school governors to discuss the academy proposal, I am pleased to report that such a meeting has been independently arranged so that parents and other stakeholders can meet face to face to discuss and ask questions about the academy proposal. 

This will take place on

Wednesday 25th May 7.00 – 8.00pm at


Garstang Bypass Road

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 16 May 2011

More Sweeties?

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At some academy chains, teachers are offered private medical care, interest-free loans for season tickets and the chance to study for master's degrees at Harvard and Oxford.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that if all schools became academies and offered these perks, the bill for the education system would be much higher. "It is somewhat slight of hand to be talking about season tickets when the government is trying to cut teachers' pensions," he said. "Teachers should be paid a good basic wage and then it should be left up to them what they spend this on."

Read the Rest

Friday, 13 May 2011

Budget Cuts

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More than half the schools in England are facing cuts to their budgets, a survey of heads and deputies suggests.

The research comes as the Department for Education announced that more than 1,000 schools have applied to become academies since June 2010.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "A third of secondary schools are now either an academy or have started on the road to conversion. This represents a fundamental shift in power away from government and towards teachers.

"Teachers, not politicians or bureaucrats, know best how to run schools."

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Reborn Again

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Thousands of faith schools are set to become academies in a fundamental shift in the role of the church in state education.

A “domino effect” will mean that up to 70 per cent of the Church of England’s 4,800 schools will convert to academy status within five years, according to the chairman of the church’s board of education, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford.

A number of Catholic and minority faith schools are due to follow suit, resulting in considerable new powers for church schools over admissions, curriculum and funding.

The CofE’s influence is also set to grow as it fills the void created by cuts to local authorities. As well as supporting its own schools, the church is likely to provide a range of services to non-faith schools, Bishop Pritchard said.

“In the long run that there will be a major shift to academies because it is what the Government is determined shall be,” he said.

Read the Rest

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Schools Cash In On Academy Status

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Schools that convert to academy status reap a big funding bonus, but could this be at the expense of more needy schools? Warwick Mansell reports

Academy Funding Unfair

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14 local authorities are backing potential court action by the Local Government Association over the unfairness inherent in Academy funding.

The DfE already recognises that the current system for funding academies is unsustainable and admits that “it is not possible, under the current system, to deliver transparent and absolutely comparable funding for maintained schools.”… -

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Test Card

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Garstang Academy Forum is taking a short break.  Normal service will be resumed on Monday 18th April.

Comments submitted from 5pm Monday 11th April will remain in moderation until that date. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Meeting with School Management 7-4-11

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We met with the head, chair of governors and the business manager at GHS yesterday to discuss the proposal that the school become an academy.

It is clear that, from their perspective, there are potential benefits to the move. The school has been chronically underfunded for years, (they wouldn't be alone in that and they can hardly be held to blame for that). Indeed, the level of frustration that many schools must feel about this is entirely understandable.  The funding regime is complex and it is difficult to establish yet, what the per capita benefit to GHS would be following conversion as the data is not yet available.  However, with the ability to retain the top sliced component of their funding and the control they would have to economically source services and structure the curriculum in the most efficient way possible, I have no reason to doubt their confidence that significant savings can be made to the benefit of the school.

However, they know as much as we do, (read, very little), about what is coming down the pipeline from central government as they are subject to the whim of whatever administration happens to be in power at the time.  Essentially, when, and if,. Michael Gove, the current Education Secretary, gets his way and all or most schools have become academies, all you have done is swap one schools management system for another and the pie that feeds them all is not likely to get bigger anytime soon. When the next administration comes along, they will doubtless be subject to another tedious bout of goalpost moving and burial under another mountain of  'initiatives'.

One thing is clear.  If you want to get fully informed in this debate, you will have to make the effort yourself.  It was made clear to us that no meetings would be organised by the school for parents, either to receive a presentation of the pros and cons, or to meet together to discuss and debate the issues. If parents wish to discuss any concerns they may have in greater detail, they should contact the school directly to make an appointment.

The school feels that it is meeting the Department for Education guidlines with respect to consultation with parents and, although we recognise that they are free to do this, we expressed our viewpoint that this does not amount to meaningful consultation.

We take the view that it is impossible, on any reasonable measure, to consider that the information provided by the school to parents is sufficient or adequately detailed enough to enable parents, at this point, to arrive at a reasoned and considered conclusion on this important decision for the school

Further issues arising from the meeting will be dealt with at a later date.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The anti academy movement is its own worst enemy

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Here, Liberal blogger and school governor Matthew Green makes a few observations about academies -  mingled, with a bit of superflous fashion advice.
"There isn’t much money in converting to academy status; for that you need an outside sponsor.  Since education departments are being cut back drastically (Lambeth is no exception, with the key decisions all being taken before last year’s election, not as a consequence of the Coalition’s cuts) the amount of support they can offer to LA schools is pretty minimal.  Most of the things that schools might want to do (including forming relationships with their neighbouring schools and local authorities) can be done under either model, which cuts both ways.  The best part of the process, one of the academy heads said, was that it forced the school to think about its vision and strategy, and how to carry it through."

"But leaders of schools need to do the best for their children and communities schools by working with government policy as they find it.  The academies decision is a delicate process of weighing up pros and cons, often with no killer argument on either side.   What is coming out of the anti academy movement is no help.  It is so tempting to think that if that is the best their opponents can do, academies must be a good idea.The movement is its own worst enemy."

Read the Article

Academies - Heads or Tales?

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Here two head teachers express their differing views on academy status:

For -  Lorraine Heath, Uffculme School, Devon

For us it's as much about preserving what we've already got, as it is about thinking what we can develop and improve in the future.

We know there are some cuts coming, we don't know how far they're going to go and when they're going to come, but opting out of local authority control gives us the opportunity to make some decisions ourselves about what we can preserve, what we can improve and where, perhaps, we can make savings.

I don't think it is true that academies take resources away from other schools.
The local authority receives money from central government for the education of all the children within the local authority. They make a decision as to how much they're going to top-slice that money. In Devon it's 8%, in some areas it's as little as 2 or 3%.

And they make decisions over how that money's going to be spent. Now that's our money, and all we're doing is asking for our share of that money so that we can make those decisions ourselves and not be dictated to by the local authority.

I think it will help academically. If we are are going to get additional resources and we decide to spend them on teachers in classrooms, that's going to help us to improve and preserve the really high standards that we've already got - rather than the money being spent on peripherals.

For me, the most important thing is having my teachers in the classroom teaching children, and to not be facing a redundancy situation, which a lot of schools are doing at the moment.

The passage of the Bill [to enable schools to convert by September] is quick. I have to say there's a lot to do.

We're a foundation school, which means we're already in a sense half way there - we already employ all our own staff, we already own our own land, so it's not as rushed for us as it might be for a community school.

But actually, knowing where you're going to be on 1 September is really important. I think there's a rationale for rushing it through, because schools need to know and need to make their plans for September.

Opposed - David Hudson, Wickersley School & Sports College, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

If we were to become an academy, it would in essence take money and resources from all the other Rotherham schools - and schools across the nation, and simply give it to us.

I am head of an outstanding, high-performing school. I'm already doing very nicely, thank you very much, so why give me extra money at the expense of other schools that need it?

What we've got in this country is an attempt to get, at the very least, within two or three miles of every child, a state secondary school that is good or outstanding. That's every child - not just my child or your child, but every child.

But if this present government is going to follow a "best and the rest" type policy, then we're going to have a situation where we have the haves and have-nots, which is what we used to have. They're busy dismantling all the good work that's been taking place in education over recent years.

In education, we collaborate. We compete with ourselves. I'm interested in the fortunes of all children, not just the ones I happen to teach.

They have been disingenuous in the naming of these new schools. The old academies were about giving failing schools a leg up. The data suggests it hasn't been particularly successful, but was a laudable attempt, and the intent was right and proper.

These are not academies in that sense, these are grant-maintained schools, they were around in the 1980s, the last time the Tories had power. They failed and these new schools will fail also. The two types of academies are very, very different.

I have canvassed all the staff and all the governors in my school in a secret ballot. We found that 83% of staff were against, 2% were for and 15% didn't know. The governors were unanimously against.

David Cameron says he wants to hear what parents have to say, and yet [on this issue] parents don't get a vote.

One minute we can ask the parents - but when we think that they may disagree with us, all of a sudden we don't ask. The government can't have it both ways.

Academies start to tap emergency funding

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New research by Syscap, the leading independent finance provider to the education sector, shows that in its first few months of operations, the Young People’s Learning Agency was forced to step in and provide £4.3 million worth of emergency funding to Academy schools. Syscap warns that the YPLA and local authorities may see more applications for emergency funding as schools struggle to deal with the impact of public sector cuts.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Funding for Academies - Garstang High School's Position

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[Article submitted by C A Goss - parent]

The government has made it very clear that there should be NO financial advantage or disadvantage in becoming an Academy.

This is clearly at odds with the situation as our Govenors and Headteacher see it.

Their argument for becoming an academy is that we will loose £1000 per pupil in funding from the local authority, and only academy status will ensure sufficient funding to allow the school to maintain or improve its standards and resources.

The Governors rightly say that they are legally bound to do what is in the best interests of the school and its pupils, and the level of financing is critical to those interests.

But the government clearly says that the financial situation is not to be an issue in the decision to become an academy.

So the question is; will anything parents, teachers, the unions or the community say, have any effect against the overwhelming financial pressure on the school to become an academy?

C A Goss, parent 03/04/11

Garstang teachers to strike in academy protest - Garstang Courier

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Garstang Courier - Friday April 1st 2011

The two biggest teaching unions, the NASUWT and NUT, have balloted members over strike action at Garstang.

The move follows a decision to consult over a possible academy switch, which would see the school opt-out of local authority control.

As The Courier went to press, NASUWT staff at the school had backed a strike and will not be taking any lessons next Tuesday (April 5).

The NASUWT executive member for the Lancashire area, John Girdley, said there was a strong sense of resentment among staff, who fear academy status could threaten their job security.

Read the Article

Friday, 1 April 2011

Industrial Action at Garstang High School

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Industrial action in schools is always regrettable as it disrupts the education of pupils and the work committments of parents, as well as increasing divisions within the school, leading to lower morale and an unsettled atmosphere.  Not good for anyone.

In such situations it is advisable for all parties to try to achieve absolute clarity when negotiating or imparting information.

As a general principle, it is also important not to impute or project motives onto individuals or organisations in communications to parents where a) those individuals or organisations have not been able to issue any statements to parents, and b) where they have no right, nor mechanism, of reply.

This arises because the NASUWT has called for industrial action at the school on Tuesday April 5th based on their understanding that the school has made the decision to proceed towards Academy status.

This is understandable because of this letter issued to parents on 28th Feb by Mr Ibison, chair of governors, in which he writes:

"Therefore, I can report that the Governing Body of Garstang High School recently convened an Extraordinary Meeting at which all the pros and cons of our prospective academisation were discussed.  Subsequently, the Governors passed a resolution that the school should proceed towards Academy status, as they felt that this would best serve the interests of our school community."

Read the Full Letter

The union has, as have I, and many other parents, taken this to mean that a final decision had been taken and that the school will proceed towards making an academy application.

This now seems to be contradicted in this communication to parents from the headmaster Mr Birch on 31st March.  Here he writes concerning the unions industrial action:

"The background to this strike action is our school’s consideration of converting to an academy at some stage in the next academic year. As you may have read in last week’s Courier, we are still at a relatively early stage of our consultation process, and no definitive decision on the school’s future has yet been taken.

It is evident, therefore, that strike action is being used pre-emptively, rather than as a last resort, to disrupt and undermine our stakeholder consultations."

Read the Full Letter

 To avoid any further confusion, it would be helpful, for all concerned, if the school could put together a consultation document (here is an example), explaining what the consultation process will be, when it will run from and to, who will be consulted, what meetings will be held and when a final decision will be taken.

Without this, it will be difficult to achieve the sort of clarity needed to deal with this very sensitive issue.  Everyone needs to know exactly what the process is and for there to be total transparency with everything, as much as possible, in the public domain.  Without this, it is most certainly not fair to slur the unions' reputation, nor by implication, the integrity and responsibility of any teachers who may take part in any industrial action.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Will becoming an Academy save your school from cuts?

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One of the only arguments being put for schools becoming an Academy is that they will get more money, and it will protect them from cuts and job losses.

In fact a number of Academies are already making cuts, and more are expected to follow.

Waterhead Academy in Oldham only opened in September, but already faces a ‘significant’ funding shortfall. The Head has told staff that there will be redundancies. There are rumours of significant job losses.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Garstang Courier - High School in Academy Move

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Article reprinted with kind permission from The Garstang Courier  
(published 28/03/2011)

GOVERNORS at Garstang High School are consulting over converting to an academy.

The switch could see the school opt out of local authority control and would give governors and the headteacher greater power to manage their own budget, buy in services, set the curriculum and even vary the length of the school day.

Letters have been sent out to parents outlining the process and staff and pupils have been briefed.

Headteacher Phil Birch says that no decision on whether to go ahead with the move will be made until the end of the consultation process, which is expected to be complete by early June.

And chair of governors Tom Ibison says they want the wider Garstang community to also have their say, as the decision could affect not just the current but also future generations of pupils and parents.

After being rated as a “good school with outstanding features” in their most recent Ofsted inspection, Garstang High was invited by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove to consider applying for academy status.

And Mr Birch revealed that a tough new funding formula, which he says has left Garstang High facing some stark financial difficulties, had been the ‘catalyst’ for the decision to look into academy status.

“We can’t run on thin air” said Mr Birch. “Historically, this school has suffered through a lack of funds, but the new funding formula disadvantages us even more.”

Mr Birch says the new arrangements from the Local Education Authority would leave Garstang £1,000 per pupil worse off than the average school, and he warned that teaching jobs and the “future success of the school” could be put at risk.

Mr Ibison described the ability to manage their own budget as ‘getting back what is ours’ and said the extra money - which is currently held by the LEA for central services shared by all schools - would allow the school to develop and improve.

He added that the governors are charged with running the school as effectively as possible and they were ‘duty bound’ to consider the academy option in the best interests of the pupils, staff and the entire Garstang community.

But he stressed that no commitment had been made and nothing was binding at this time.

Mr Birch added that both he and the governors had many more questions to be answered about the academy move before they would be completely happy with the idea, although he believed the new status would provide “new opportunities that would benefit the school.’’

He pointed out that other secondary schools in the area were also looking at academy status and it could mean Garstang tapping into a new local ‘academy network’ of outstanding schools, sharing expertise and ideas.

Mr Birch also said the freedom to look at the curriculum would allow them to tailor the timetable and subjects to better reflect the needs of the students and the local job market.

He said that the move to academy status would not mean a complete break with the LEA, as the school may continue to buy-in certain services while the LEA would still look after key statutory services including special needs statementing and child protection.

Mr Ibison pledged the school would not start selecting pupils according to aptitude, saying it was their intention to maintain it as a ‘community school for all’ in Garstang, and said that all the existing terms and conditions of staff would be maintained.

The academy schools programme has proved controversial, with critics of the policy - including the main teaching unions - warning that weakening the role of local authorities will mean that some children, especially the most disadvantaged, could lose out. Local education authorities would also be left without the capacity to intervene if problems appear in local school provision, while opponents claim the academies will create a ‘two-tier’ education system.

Mr Birch said he recognised the issues, saying: “I am concerned because my staff are concerned about the possible changes, which is understandable when you are possibly changing employer, but I think the only change they would really notice would be fewer cuts.’’

Anyone who would like to contact the headteacher or governors to express their views on the academy conversion can do so via the links on the school website at, or by writing to them at: Garstang High School, Bowgreave, Garstang, PR3 1YE.

Academy Funding - 2011/12

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1. The Department for Education has consulted local authorities,
academies, schools representatives and other partners on academy funding
for 2011-12 via the Academy Funding Sub-Group of the School Funding
Implementation Group. We have also taken into account views expressed on
the School Funding 2011-12 consultation paper in reaching our conclusions.

2. We have decided to retain for 2011-12 the current methodology for
allocating the Dedicated Schools Grant. Therefore, we will retain the
replication methodology for calculating academy budgets for a further year.

3. In the longer term, our intention is to develop a simpler and more
transparent funding system which helps to reduce the funding differences
between similar schools in different areas. We are clear that becoming an
academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a
school but rather, enable academies to have greater freedom over how they
use their budgets. We will continue to work with key external partners to
consider how best to bring this about.

Read the Rest

Related Papers

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Why Become An Academy School?

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The previous post showed that, in the short term at least, there IS a strong financial incentive for schools to convert now: that is, before funding arrangements are equalised across the education sector. Here, a headteacher considers some of those and other issues involved for the benefit of parents.
Read the full article here.


A number of parents have enquired, through this blog, about our thoughts around the DfE’s offer to become an academy. The conversion to an academy school, even with sweeping changes made by the new government, remains a complex process. Both in terms of legislation and philosophy it is not a move that should be taken lightly or without due consideration. Recent weeks have seen a very rapid series of changes implemented by the Department for Education and the offer to allow outstanding schools such as ours the opportunity to become academies is at the forefront of these changes.

Why become an academy school?
There is more power to innovate within the current curricular and statutory guidance than many school leaders realise: 95% of the requests to innovate made of the department over the past three years have addressed powers already possessed by schools. This is even more the case for outstanding schools, for whom the OfSTED inspection framework gives even greater latitude to explore creative ways to drive standards higher.

So, despite the rhetoric, the main drive for moving towards academy status is not greater curricular freedom. We already have most of the curricular freedom that we want. That leaves us two other main differences that academy status affords, one of which has some appeal, the other probably less so: funding and admissions.

The Local Authority keeps something in the region of 10% of schools’ funding to pay for centralised services. By becoming an academy we would receive funds directly from the department and so would retain that extra 10%. Our financial consultant advises us that we would gain around £400,000 per year. Initially this seems very attractive: it equates to about 14 new teachers or 28 new teaching assistants, nearly one extra adult per class however you implemented it.

Nevertheless, there are issues to be considered. Services which are currently centralised, such as educational welfare officers, educational psychologists, human resources and so on would need to be paid for from our 10% new funding. Although competition in this regard would be very healthy (and exists already), if many schools in a region become academies then it is possible that Local Authorities simply will not be able to provide the services currently available because staff will have been lost as a result of all the academies’ 10% funding withdrawal.

The Local Authority would also cease to be the employer of staff here and this would need to be undertaken by the governors through an academy trust. This trust would need to appoint a governing body to manage the academy, as well as co-ordinate either the transfer of the land on which the school is sited, or to enter into a 125 year lease with the Local Authority. The current wave of new academies receive £25k from the government towards the costs of these changes, although total costs may be more like £50 – 70k. It is not certain if this initial £25k will still be on offer for later academy conversions. The role as employer will not be easy. An academy would not have to participate in national wage agreements and this would cause high levels of anxiety amongst staff’s professional associations such as the NUT, NASUWT etc. Of particular concern to these associations is the possible future reduction in pension contributions that an academy employer might make, so any re-negotiation of the terms of employment by governors of the academy trust will be hard won.

That said, in schools we have had 10 years of unprecedented funding. It is unlikely that we will see similar funding within the careers of our current teachers. This is why we have been able to employ so many teaching assistants, create new buildings, buy new technology and create new facilities. We are in a very different place now, with a much more bleak budgetary future and our expectations need to be managed accordingly.

Therefore, seizing control of what amounts to a 10% slice of our budget is very appealing and would safeguard many of the aspects of our school life that we value, such as our ability to keep investing, pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve for our children and innovating in our relentless pursuit of excellence.

Furthermore, we manage our finances very well for current spend and future plans, but each year we operate under threat of having some of our surplus balances ‘clawed back’ by the Local Authority if they are above a small percentage figure of our overall budget. Academy status would prevent this distorting action on our long term financial plans. However, it should be noted that if the new financial year brings further cuts to schools’ budgets, then the 10% may increasingly become a means to simply maintaining the status quo. This is obviously not a bad thing, but it is a different understanding of what we may have to use the 10% to achieve.

Admissions would change too, with academy status, as the school would become its own admitting authority. In comparison to the financial issues of academy status, this aspect has received less attention, however, it is equally important. The school could establish its own admissions criteria, much as foundation schools do currently and admit children on this basis. However the administration and appeals process would again have to be managed by the trust and governors, rather than by the Local Authority. This is a return to how we used to operate as up until 2 years ago we managed the administration of admissions rather than it being handled by central services at the LA. However, administrative changes are procedural and do not change admissions criteria. Becoming an academy would allow the school to reconsider and set new admissions criteria and many parents and prospective parents would have very strong views on any proposed changes such a trust would make in this regard.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Academy Funding

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It has been stated that "there should be no financial advantage or disadvantage for a school converting to academy status."

It is difficult to square this statement with the following information taken from a consultation document prepared by Preston Business and Enterprise College in Somerset.

I include THIS LINK to their full consultation outline document which is very instructive and seems to me to be exemplary in its approach.


Funding is payable by the Secretary of State

Academies receive the same funding as maintained schools with the additional funding for services that the LA would have provided – it is clear however that there is currently a financial incentive to convert now and the quicker the conversion the greater the financial gain

A school converting on or before 1st August will receive additional funding of £539 per student, based upon current student numbers the school would receive an additional £506,121 per annum.

A school converting on or after the 1st September will receive additional funding of £239 per student

Initial indications are that the funding difference will reduce over time, we are still waiting for exact details although initial enquiries suggest a drop of between 10-20% in the second year

An additional £25,000 grant is payable to support the school's conversion to an Academy

The introduction of a new national funding arrangement is expected for 2014/15, I would anticipated parity for all Academies as an outcome of this process

All costs associated with running the school become the responsibility of the Academy Trust – increased liabilities include maternity leave, redundancy costs, pension provision, legal costs, insurance and indemnity requirements.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Scottish MSP's call for greater head teacher autonomy.

Introduction & Posting Guidelines - Please Read First

A report from an education committee consisting of members of the Scottish parliament has rejected reforms such as the English academy programme, the USA charter schools or the Swedish free schools movements, while suggesting that heads should be given greater freedoms.

Read the Article


Introduction & Posting Guidelines - Please Read First

The impetus to save money by the reform of publicly funded bodies hides, in my view, the ideological drive of this government to use the rhetoric of deficit reduction to drive through massive privatisation of public services including education.

The widening of the academies programme, from its initial aim of bootstrapping failing schools, to the ‘offer’ that all schools should now convert to academies is strengthened by the demands of the Education Bill that all new school commissions must preference academy or free school status before grant maintained schools.

This involves a massive centralisation, contrary, it seems to me, to the notions contained in the Localism Bill and the ideas behind the ‘Big Society’.

As evidence, I cite the many public bodies that are to be axed whose functions will be subsumed within the relevant state departments. A large number of these specialist bodies contain highly skilled staff whose duty it is to support, promote and maintain education standards.

The list of public bodies to be axed includes:

General Teaching Coucil for England
HM Chief Inspector of Education, Childrens Services and Skills (Ofsted)
Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation (Ofqual)
Pensions Regulator
School Support Staff Negotiating Body
School Teachers Review Body
Training and Development Agency for Schools
Young Peoples Learning Agency for England
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service
Charity Commission for England and Wales
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Health and Safety Exutive

Edit:  I forgot the Audit Commission in that list.  The body that looks at the spend of £180bn of public monies every year.  They're going too.

Consulting the Oracle

Introduction & Posting Guidelines - Please Read First

In which the BBC's James Silver queries Secretary of State Michael Gove about his views on what consultation should consist of in terms of schools becoming academies.

James Silver: "We asked the Secretary of State whether it was acceptable that publicly owned assests like schools should be handed over without full consultation with parents and the wider community."

Michael Gove: "The assets remain public assets, the schools remain state schools. No one is discriminated against by the school becoming an academy."

James Silver: "But they’re breaking free from the local authortiy, in that sense, they’re breaking free, (as many parents would have it), from the community."

Michael Gove: "So far I’ve been struck by the fact that most of those people who’ve been opposed to schools becoming academies tend to be people with political links of one kind or another. They may be predisposed not to like the government’s policies – that’s fair enough, it’s a democracy…people can take different views. What’s striking is that you actually have parent groups springing up demanding that schools become an academy.

James Silver: "But what constitutes, in your view, a proper consultation process – should parents be consulted, is just writing a letter to parents enough?"

Michael Gove: "I think the consultation process should really be for the head and the governors to decide themselves."

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Money driving many schools to become academies.

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A report by Katherine Sellgren from the ASCL conference in Manchester.

"A poll of 1,471 heads by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found nearly half (46%) had converted to academy status or intended to do so." 

Read the Article

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Education Bill - Committee Stage - Evidence Session 1/3/11

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Evidence from: 
Independent Academies Association, Harris Federation, Cuckoo Hall Primary School and Richard Rose Federation of Academies
Association of Schools and College Leaders and NAHT Local Government Association,
Association of Directors of Children’s Services and David Smellie (employment lawyer)


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Who Owns English Schools?

Introduction & Posting Guidelines   Please Read First

BBC Radio 4 - The Report - A 30 minute radio documentary looking at the academies program.

Listen Online

"The Government wants all schools in England to become academies: state-funded but independent of local authority control. In the summer, Education Secretary Michael Gove predicted that more than 1,000 schools would opt for the new academy status. Four months on, there are fewer than 100 new academies. Some headteachers are now locked in dispute with trade unions - and even parents - over plans to convert their schools. Is the Government's flagship education initiative in danger of stalling? Reporter James Silver reports from the education front-line on the latest Government drive to turn all local authority-managed schools into free-standing academies. And he asks who will be the winners and losers as the policy goes ahead."

The Education Bill

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The Education Bill goes to Committee Stage once more in the House of Commons tomorrow [10 March 2011] in Committee Room 9 at 9am..  Many parts of the bill deal with academies. You can watch this committee meeting live online and possibly on TV on Parliament Channel.

The education journalist Fiona Millar writes this about the bill.........

"If a new school is needed, academy/free school bids must be prioritised before any other type of school can be considered, the Secretary of State will decide who runs it, local authorities are frozen out of the process and new maintained schools will be almost impossible to achieve.

The government is also to give itself powers to transfer land directly to free schools, the requirement for locally established admissions forums is to be ditched, at a time when there may be an explosion of autonomous schools, the Schools Adjudicator will no longer be able to require schools to change illegal entry criteria and parents will no long be able to complain to the local government ombudsman.

Translated into everyday life these changes mean that, far from having choice, parents will have a very limited menu; an academy, or an academy called a free school; no say in who runs it; no local scrutiny of how it manipulates its admissions and no meaningful role for the local authority in planning places to meet local needs.

In a sense it is encouraging that the take up of academies and free schools has been so sluggish that the financial carrot has now been replaced by a big stick. But these clauses, alongside the changes to the teaching workforce, and the curriculum, represent a massive power, and land, grab away from local communities and to central government, for which there is no mandate."
(Read The Rest of this Article)

Monday, 7 March 2011


Introduction & Posting Guidelines - Please read first.

In December 2010 Lord Hill, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, wrote to all potential academies with some views concerning union involvement and the TUPE - (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, in the decision to become an academy.

This letter is linked to here for reference.

Together with a link here to a response from the NASUWT.

Both letters speak for themselves.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Governor's Letter

Mr Ibison's letter of 28th Febuary sets out four advantages that Academy status would bestow. 

I responded with a list of questions that I assume many will be asking.  See below.

I will post any response here.

At the outset, I want to make it clear that I don't understand why Garstang would join in with this goverments dismantling of the state education system for so little gain. 

I don't share this vision: whatever it is...someone will have to show it to me.

The school web page kicks off with the words "Our Shared Vision."  Well, I hope they will live up to that.

Here are the questions I put:

Who are the proposed sponsors of GHS Academy status?

What is the proposed timeline envisaged in proceeding towards Academy status?

Which key stakeholder groups are involved in the consultation process? What consultation meetings, with what groups, have taken place thus far, and what further meetings are planned? Are the minutes of any such meetings that have taken place between governors, stakeholders or the LEA available? Are any meetings of the staff, or the parents/guardians of pupils planned in order to discuss the proposal?

Please quantify the monies spent by the LA on GHS’s behalf in the last financial year, indicating on what those monies were spent? Please could you also outline the present budgetary position and how you envisage a change to Academy status affecting that position.
    How will staff terms and conditions be protected in the event of centralised cuts to school budgets being imposed by government/s in the future? Will staff remuneration track increases in nationally negotiated agreements under Academy status?

    On transfer to Academy status, will GHS become a charity or a limited company or a trust or some other legal entity?

    Will any current rules relating to SEN admissions, exclusions, staff, the composition of the governing body or any other existing rules be written into the proposed Academy agreement?

    Under Academy status, what will be the arrangements for either parents or pupils to challenge or complain about the functioning of the school, or other matters currently dealt with by the LEA and/or the courts? How will independent abitration of disputes be managed?

    May I also invite you to share your vision for the future for Garstang High School at a website I have created for that purpose. The web address is:

    I would also be very grateful if you could, through the school, issue notification of this facility to all parents, guardians and teachers at the school so that as many as possible can share their views and join in the debate.

    Thank you etc etc...............

    Saturday, 5 March 2011


    Dear All

    Notification of the intention of the Governors of Garstang High School to proceed towards Academy status has been given.

    This has profound implications for all the pupils, parents, teachers, governors, ancilliary staff: in fact, for the whole community. There are bound to be many questions you would like to ask about it.

    As this decision is irreversible - there is no route back once an Acedemy Order has been issued by the Secretary of State - it is vitally important that all parties are fully involved in an open, transparent and democratic consultation process where all the pros and cons may be FULLY scrutinised and any subsequent decisions owned by all of us.

    In order to facilitate this, I have set up this web page giving information about Academy status and offering the opportunity for ALL, whether pro or anti Academy, to engage in a full and frank debate about the issues. The site includes links to the Academies Act 2010, articles and other relevant information.

    Submissions to the site are welcome from BOTH sides of the debate and comments will be open for everyone to make or just to read. Comments are moderated before publication so please don't worry if they don't appear immediately. Anonymous comments are  permitted.

    Please make comments that are, as far as possible, reasoned and evidence based.  Innapropriate language or comments attacking a person rather than an argument (ad hominem) will not be permitted.

    Comments from pupils are also welcome, but the spelling better be good!

    To comment on any post just click on 'comment' at the foot of each post. To submit a post for inclusion on the page please e-mail it to It is the responsibilty of the poster to obtain any copyright clearances necessary.

    Thank you for visiting.  I look forward to hearing your views.

    Maurice Pennance - Parent