Tough lessons from academy schools | Letters

Dr Simon Gibbs says the number of children permanently excluded is rising, while Dr Michael Cross offers solutions to ‘zombie’ schools

Damian Hinds claims “the overwhelming majority of academies tell a positive story … we’ve come a long way in the past eight years” (53,000 pupils trapped in ‘zombie’ academy schools, Labour says, 15 April). Try telling that to the increasing proportion of children and young people (and their families) permanently excluded from academies.

Government figures show that in 2009-10, of the 5,740 children and young people permanently excluded from schools, 590 (10%) were from academies. The most recent figures (2016-17) show that not only has the total number risen to 7,720 (in itself a scandal), but also that the number of young people permanently excluded from academies has risen disproportionately, to 4,620 (60% of all who were permanently excluded in that year).

A possibly related phenomenon is that, of the children and young people eligible for free school meals in 2009-10, 20% were permanently excluded; in 2016-17, 28% (3,085 in total) of those eligible for free meals were permanently excluded.
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University

• The near-100 schools waiting to be “brokered” by the regional schools commissioners is a worrying high level. Perhaps two solutions would aid the process: first, when a school is to be rebrokered it is offered to the local authority immediately and run by it until a new trust can absorb the school. Second, there needs to be a significant rebrokerage fund to aid the absorption of zombie academies. Most multi-academy trusts (MATs) do not have the capacity to manage the absorption and turnaround of an extra school and most MAT directors would not allow their leadership team to risk impacting the performance of their current schools.

The fund should be sufficient to allow the rebrokered school to be fully absorbed and able to improve its practices on a sustainable basis. A rough estimate would be around £500,000-£650,000 per school at least and so comparable to startup funding for a new school.
Dr Michael Cross
Richmond, Surrey

• Join the debate – email

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition

The first letter was amended 23 April 2019 because the 590 pupils who were excluded from academies represented 10% of the total figure of 5,740 children and young people permanently excluded from schools, not 30% as an earlier version said.


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Guardian view on impoverished schools: charity is not the answer | Editorial
Editorial: Headteachers are being forced to beg for donations. It makes a mockery of ministers’ talk of fair funding


16, Jun, 2019 @5:30 PM

Article image
Market forces won’t improve our schools | Letters
Letters: Parental choice and competition don’t help, writes Andrew Wingard, comprehensives aren’t just ‘bog standard’, says Celia Berridge, and Neil Macehiter asks how the shortfall of secondary school places will be tackled


31, Aug, 2018 @3:29 PM

Article image
Academy schools stockpile £2.5bn of education funding
Figures suggest academies in England are re-creating the financial safety net previously provided by local authorities

Sally Weale and Richard Adams

18, Jan, 2015 @4:17 PM

Article image
Sixty ‘orphan’ schools shunned by academy sponsors
Would-be sponsors are fighting shy of schools with a poor Ofsted rating or financial difficulties, tearing a hole in the government’s flagship academy policy

Warwick Mansell

07, Feb, 2017 @7:15 AM

Article image
Private tutors plan is not the best solution | Letters
Letters: Readers are sceptical about the government’s proposal to help pupils catch up on lost learning during the pandemic


19, Jun, 2020 @3:33 PM

Article image
Academy trust head ‘sick’ at school’s good Ofsted rating
Why was Dame Rachel de Souza unhappy with the Hewett school’s 2013 ‘good’ Ofsted rating? Plus: we have a leaked draft of the delayed report on ‘assessment without levels’

Warwick Mansell

28, Jul, 2015 @6:00 AM

Article image
English schools are broken. Only radical action will fix them | Melissa Benn
From failed free schools to poor funding and inequality, education needs drastic reform to create a fairer model, says author Melissa Benn

Melissa Benn

09, Aug, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Despair over school funding and education system in Britain | Letters
Letters: Bridget James is despondent about the inequality among institutions, Tony Pitman holds up Germany as a model and a teacher wishing to remain anonymous reveals the Orwellian world of multi-academy trusts


30, Jun, 2019 @5:06 PM

Article image
Government presses on with plan for all-academy England
In our diary: Commissioners still pushing all-academy system; free school postcode lottery; council thwarts plan for school in police station

Warwick Mansell

14, Jun, 2016 @5:45 AM

Article image
Taxpayer funds ‘alternative provision’ free schools at up to £430,000 a pupil
In our diary: DfE data fuels debate over whether ministers are favouring free schools; academy sponsor uses ‘tax deferral’ scheme; and Ofsted flaws revealed

Warwick Mansell

20, Oct, 2015 @6:00 AM