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

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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.

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