Academisation in the Schools Bill and White Paper

The Government’s White Paper published in March 2022 set out its ambition to see every school in England in a multi-academy trust (MAT) or in the process of joining one by 2030.

Since then, the Schools Bill has begun its passage through the Houses of Parliament. This and other measures set out how the Government hopes to achieve this aim.

This costly and disruptive policy is not what is needed for schools, staff or pupils. It is the wrong focus and ignores the real problems in education such as underfunding, teacher retention and increasing child poverty.

It also does nothing to address the problems within the academy programme.

The flawed case for a fully MAT-led system

  • Academisation has not worked. There is considerable evidence of the failures and problems of the academy system. This includes financial scandals, schools being let down by trusts that walk away, and the top-down anti-democratic way that MATs are structured. None of these structural problems are being addressed.
  • Recent NEU analysis debunks the arguments made by the Government that MATs outperform local authority schools in terms of Ofsted grades. The findings suggest that schools who join MATs are less likely to improve their Ofsted rating and are, in fact, more likely to see a regression in their next Ofsted assessment.
  • The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) agreed with the NEU’s complaint about the Government’s evidence, accepting that the NEU's report showed that the DfE evidence was misleading.
  • A central claim of the White Paper is that strong MATs can achieve better economies of scale compared to local authority schools, enabling them to spend more on pupils or staff. However, the only systematic study of MAT finances to date shows the opposite. It found that academies spend more on back-office functions than maintained schools do, and they do not achieve economies of scale by forming multi-academy trusts.

Academisation is not the answer

Moving to a system dominated by MATs would mean more top-down control of schools and less voice and agency for staff, parents and pupils in the system.

The MAT structure means that individual schools have little control over key decisions including pay, appraisal, the curriculum, pedagogy and behaviour management.

There is no mechanism for a school to choose to leave a MAT and schools have no formal powers when decisions are taken by the MAT board that impact on their budget and staff.

What schools and local authorities should do now

Our message to schools which are not in MATs and their local authorities is do not go along with the Government’s agenda.

The Government is not significantly increasing its powers to force schools to become MATs, so there is no need to act now.

Schools supported by local authorities remains the best way for schools to be connected to and responsive to their local communities.

Academisation is a one-way route and Government proposals for MATs which are set up by local authorities are just a cover for pushing schools into the MAT system. Councils would lose the ability to support and influence schools and would have no say in their future.