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Academy numbers increase

15/01/2013 Joanna
The number of academies in England continues to escalate, according to official figures, but there is disagreement as to whether those in teaching jobs in these schools will benefit.

Data published by the Department for Education (DfE) has indicated that there are now 2,619 academies operating in England and 3,167 open or pipeline academies, accounting for 12 and 15 per cent of all schools in the country respectively.

Since the start of this term, 42 primary schools and 36 secondary schools have made the switch to academy status, with the result that there are now 974 open primary academies in England, accounting for six per cent of all primary schools.

Yet it is secondary teachers who have really felt the impact of the academies programme: there are now 1,584 open secondary academies, meaning they make up 48 per cent of England's secondary schools.

More than 2,000 schools have opted to switch to academy status, while the number of sponsored academies has risen from 203 in May 2010 to 599 now.

This includes 200 of the worst-performing primary schools which have since become sponsored academies, while the DfE has also vowed to find sponsors for a further 400 underperforming primaries.

According to the department, academies empower head teachers by freeing them from local authority control to make necessary changes, such as increasing teacher recruitment in subjects where students are struggling or introducing new contracts to reward high-performing staff.

Education secretary Michael Gove commented: "We believe in trusting the professionals.

"That's why we gave teachers the opportunity to take on more freedom and responsibility and they have grabbed it with both hands. Many are now going even further and taking on responsibility for turning around less successful schools."

Yet National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower warned that Mr Gove should take "no pride" from these latest figures, describing the academies programme as socially divisive and as drawing billions of pounds out of the education system.

She also denied that academies granted more power to head teachers and teachers, arguing that many academy chains adopt top-down structures and policies that all of their staff have to work within.

A report published last week by the Academies Commission set up by Pearson Think Tank and the RSA stated that the academies programme was no "panacea" for resolving schools' problems and called for greater collaboration, accessibility and accountability among academies.

Posted by Theo FouldsADNFCR-2164-ID-801522381-ADNFCR
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