Hundreds of British schools are set to opt out of local authority control and seek academy status.
In July this year the flagship academies bill made it possible for British schools to alter their status and look for sponsorship from local industry (and other institutions) in order to qualify for central government funding. As children prepare for the start of the new academic year, it has become clear that this prospect is overwhelmingly attractive to many.
While 32 schools are expected to re-open this month as new academies over 2000 have expressed an interest in converting and 140 are expected to make the transition in the coming school year. The first wave of new academies (which will be similar in style to the already successful JCB Academy in Staffordshire) are largely Ofsted rated “outstanding” schools or federated to such institutions.
Education Minister Michael Gove said in May that he envisioned academy schools would become “the norm” in British education and today a spokesperson for Mr Gove said: “This is part of Mr Gove’s overall vision – that teachers and heads should control schools, not politicians and bureaucrats.”
Becoming an academy would allow UK schools to diverge from the national curriculum and tailor the way they teach to suit their student intake and the needs of the local community. It is hoped that the new style of education will allow closer collaboration with local industry and make teaching better linked to the real skills needs of employers and the national economy. Such freedoms are anticipated to make a particular impact on the delivery of 14-19 education which has been repeatedly identified as a key time for young people in making career choices and a critical stage at which industry should connect with them to highlight opportunities for the application of their skills.
The number of schools converting to academy status for the start of the academic year 2010-11 are significantly lower than some government officials had predicated and opposition representatives have said that the figure represent a embarrassing climb-down. However many schools are still in the process of negotiating appropriate local partnerships and consulting with staff and parents as to whether academy status represents the right choice for their community.
This Friday TM will be visiting The JCB Academy for the start of its new term to hear how their plans for the better delivery applied STEM skills are progressing through engagement with students, staff and industrial partners.
This year Jim Wade, principle of The JCB Academy will be speaking at TMs flagship conference (The Manufacturer Directors Conference 2010, November 18, Chesford Grange, Warwickshire) to share his experiences on how to establish strong links between education and real economic needs for the benefit of young people and UK competitive strength alike.