We are currently going through a major structural change in the UK education system as schools covert to academies and new institutions such as UTCs, Free Schools and Studio Schools appear on the scene. So what are these new institutions? How many are they? What further expansion might we expect? Here’s a summary of the current situation which I’ve extracted from the DfE web site – www.dfe.gov.uk
New academies open on the 1st of each month. As of February 2012 there were 1580 open academies. In total 1861 applications have been received, of which 1629 have been approved. This means that there are at least 49 more approved academies that will convert in the coming months and the likelihood of many more between now and the end of the year. With this number there is now a critical mass of academies representing over 50% of the total number of secondary schools in England. The Academies programme has yet to reach Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Briefly, the main differences of an academy include:
- freedom from local authority control
- the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff
- freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum
- the ability to change the lengths of terms and school days.
Some academies, generally those set-up to replace underperforming schools, will have a sponsor. Sponsors come from a wide range of backgrounds including successful schools, businesses, universities, charities and faith bodies. Sponsors are held accountable for the improving the performance of their schools. They do this by challenging traditional thinking on how schools are run and what they should be like for students. They seek to make a complete break with cultures of low aspiration and achievement. The sponsor’s vision and leadership are vital to each project.
Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school, plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the local authority. However, academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets to best benefit their students. Academies receive their funding directly from the Young People’s Learning Agency (an agency of the Department for Education) rather than from local authorities.
In addition to the growth in academies, several other new school ‘types’ have emerged:
The first 24 Free Schools opened in September 2011. So what is a Free School?
Free Schools are non-profit making, independent, state-funded schools. There is not a ’one-size-fits-all’ approach. They are not defined by size or location: there is not a single type of Free School or a single reason for setting them up. Free Schools could be primary or secondary schools. They could be located in traditional school buildings or appropriate community spaces such as office buildings or church halls. They could be set up by a wide range of proposers – including charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, visionary teachers or committed parents – who want to make a difference to the educational landscape. They might be needed because there simply are not enough school places in a local area and children have to travel too far to the nearest school. The thing which unites all Free Schools is that they are being set up in response to real demand within a local area for a greater variety of schools.
A further 54 schools have been approved and will open in September 2012 or beyond.
University Technical Colleges
UTCs are academies for 14-19-year-olds. They focus on providing technical education that meets the needs of modern employers. They offer technical courses and work-related learning, combined with academic studies. All UTCs:
- are sponsored by a local university and employers. It is also usual for FE colleges and other educational institutions – like established academy trusts – to work in partnership with them;
- specialise in two curriculum areas (e.g. engineering and science);
- teach core GCSEs alongside technical qualifications, and we expect them to offer young people the opportunity to achieve the English Baccalaureate;
- focus on disciplines that require highly specialised equipment, for example, engineering, manufacturing and construction;
- teach these disciplines alongside developing young people’s business, ICT and design skills to prepare students for a range of careers and continuing education at 19; and
- have 500 to 800 students.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust plays a key role in developing partnerships and advising on applications for UTCs.
Two UTCs are already open – the JCB Academy in Staffordshire, and the Black Country UTC in Walsall. Three more UTCs have been fully approved to open in either Sept 2012 or Sept 2013 and a further 13 applications are progressing through the approval process. This gives a total ofr 18 against the government target of 24.
On 14 December 2011, 12 new Studio Schools were approved to enter the pre-opening stage. They are spread across England and are a new type of 14-19 school that allow young people to prepare for work, while gaining core qualifications and valuable employability skills. Pupils in a Studio School will experience an innovative curriculum built around project-based learning, with part of the timetable devoted to meaningful work placements and pupils over 16 paid a real wage. They are small schools – typically with around 300 pupils – delivering mainstream qualifications through project based learning.
Students work with local employers and a personal coach, and follow a curriculum designed to give them the employability skills and qualifications they need in work, or to take up further education.
The first two Studio Schools opened in September 2010 in Luton and Huddersfield with a further four opening in September 2011 in Leicestershire, Durham, Manchester and Maidstone.
In summary the educational landscape is rapidly changing. New types of schools are emerging, the role of the local authority has diminished, schools have far greater independence (and responsibility) and funding is direct from the YPLA rather than through the LA.