Set up by the Pearson Think Tank and the RSA to examine the long term impact of academisation on educational outcomes, the Academy Commission’s report, Unleashing Greatness, argues that the Government must apply a more systematic approach towards implementing the next phase of the academies programme as well as a forensic focus on teaching quality if its transformative potential is to be truly realised.
The dramatic rise in the number of schools choosing to become independent academies does not necessarily represent a ‘panacea for school improvement’ and the Government should do more to encourage them to use their new found freedoms to drive up standards in the classroom.
Whilst noting many stunning successes, the Commission’s report concludes that driving excellence in teaching and learning particularly requires schools to focus rigorously on what’s happening in classrooms, with greater expectations around collaboration and school to school support.
The report brings together international and national research into school autonomy and additional evidence gathered through written and oral evidence sessions, focus groups and workshops and surveys, from practitioners, parents, students and other educational experts.
The report concludes that the responsibility to deliver fair access should be reinforced, with greater accountability to key stakeholders, especially parents, backed by strong, expert and independent governance. By doing this, the commission argues, the words ‘academisation’ and ‘improvement’ will become inextricably linked.
Chaired by Christine Gilbert, the Commissioners outlined three imperatives, backed by recommendations, to ensure that the successes of the Academies Programme are embedded across the board:
1) A forensic focus on teaching and its impact on pupils’ learning
2) A guarantee that an academised system is fair and equally accessible to children and young people from all backgrounds
3) Greater accountability to pupils, parents and other stakeholders
Professor Becky Francis, Director of the Pearson Think Tank and Director of the Commission, said:
“There is great work happening in many Academies, but with their greater independence there is a risk that the roots of success are not properly understood, and shared as effectively they might be. There needs to be a much tighter focus on implementation to ensure the academies programme achieves its promise to improve children’s education across the board. Converter academies – those Outstanding and good schools that now make up around three-quarters of all academies – need to be held to account on their commitments to work with other local schools to ensure improvement. There also needs to be more stringent accountability and transparency around the appointment of academy sponsors and scrutiny of their performance, to ensure that the academies programme realises its potential.”
Media coverage so far includes Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, Independent, Telegraph blog, FT, Times, New Statesman, TES, SecEd and Huffington Post. Lord Storey also asked a question in Parliament about it.
On Wednesday 24th April 2013, the Education Select Committee in Parliament held a special one-off evidence session to discuss the final report from the Academies Commission. During this evidence session, Christine Gilbert CBE (Chair), Professor Becky Francis (Director) and Professor Chris Husbands (Commissioner) were quizzed by MPs about the Academies Commission’s key recommendations and analysis as well as their thoughts on academies in general. To watch the full evidence session, please click here.