Even though the government has retreated from the forced academisation of all schools, the reality is that increasing numbers of schools are going to change ownership and join multi-academy trusts (MATS). This is a contentious issue for teachers but what do parents make of it? Might the move to academy status at your local school influence your decision of where to send your children?
The hope is that academisation - given the support of the other schools, investors and governors that make up a MAT - will help schools improve. The actual process of academisation can take as little as three months. However, it takes far longer for the potential benefits of the change to take effect. But how can you tell how the school has changed? The following questions will give you an idea of what you should think about when a school has recently become an academy.
Is it part of a multi-academy trust (MAT)?
More MATs will now be taking control of schools and each will have its own ideas and approaches to education. Do your research. The schools' own websites will be a good place to start. Look at how successful other schools in the chain are and what they offer. Does their approach to education match what you want for your children?
Has the school got a new head teacher?
Lots of schools, especially poor performers, are likely to have new leadership teams. Do some reading about a school’s leaders and learn a little about them and their previous careers. The move towards academies will give head teachers more control, so it is more important than ever to ensure a school is led by the right person.
What do they teach?
Academisation means schools will have more autonomy over what they teach. So, although they still have to satisfy the requirements of the Department for Education, you may start to see more diversity in the curricula schools choose. Does a science bias suit your child? Or a technological one? What about languages?
Who are the sponsors?
MATS have investors called sponsors. Some feel that it is inevitable that its sponsors will influence the way a school is run. As Mark Deacon, head of School Partnerships at Roehampton University, explains: ‘what the sponsor thinks is important is going to matter; it is going to make a difference.’ He describes how one school insists that teachers explain which entrepreneurial attributes they cover in each lesson, something which he feels comes directly from the sponsors. Deacon recommends looking at a school’s values as described on its website and evaluating the influence of the sponsors on these.