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Every School an Academy: The White Paper Proposals

Published Friday, April 29, 2016

This House of Commons Library briefing discusses the Government's proposals to convert all state-funded schools in England to academy status. It sets out the relevant proposals in the Education White Paper, the reaction that has followed the announcement, and also provides information on academy performance

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Budget Announcement and White Paper

Following an announcement by the Chancellor in his Budget statement, the Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper was published on 17 March 2016.  The paper sets out the Government’s proposals to convert all state-funded schools in England to academy status by 2022.

Background and proposals

Academies are state-funded, non-fee-paying schools in England, independent of local authorities. They operate in accordance with their funding agreements with the Secretary of State.  Expansion of academies, including new ‘free schools’, was a major feature of education policy under the Coalition Government, following their introduction by the previous Labour administration.

The White Paper proposes that local authorities would no longer maintain schools, and an all academy system would be created.

The proposed system would include:

  • Most schools becoming part of multi-academy trusts (MATs);
  • A reformed role for local authorities, focusing on duties such as ensuring sufficiency of school places, supporting vulnerable pupils, and acting as a champion for parents;
  • A new legal framework for an all academy system.

Other reforms, such as a move to a more skills-focused school governance system, and changes to the transfer of land when community schools convert to academy status, are included in the White Paper.  Significant reforms to school improvement and accountability are also proposed.

Reaction

The proposals have proved highly controversial.  In particular, questions have been raised about the desirability of such large-scale reforms in the context of other challenges, the impact on local democracy and teachers’ pay and condition of an all academy system, and whether sufficient MAT capacity can be created to provide a high quality academised system.  The question of whether academy status is in itself a boost to school standards has also been a key focus of the debate.

Legislation

The White Paper makes clear that the proposals would require legislation, for instance to alter the role of local authorities to fit within the new system.  It has not yet been announced when legislation will be brought before Parliament.

This briefing

The White Paper is wide ranging and describes the Government’s plans for education reform over a range of areas, including teachers’ professional development, school funding reform, and changes to the curriculum.  This briefing deals with the proposals as they relate to the creation of an all academy system.

Education is a devolved subject, and the proposals relate to England only.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7549

Authors: Robert Long; Paul Bolton

Topic: Schools

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