Government failing to learn from academy failures

The Department for Education is not learning lessons from high-profile academy failures, finds the Public Accounts Committee.

The comittee found that in its rush to convert large numbers of schools to academies, the DfE did not pay enough attention to ensuring that its applicants were scrutinised sufficiently.

It is now strengthening how it examines prospective academies’ financial viability and sponsors’ ability to improve the schools they are taking on, but these issues should have been addressed much earlier and the changes do not go far enough.

It is particularly worrying that the Department still does not seem to be learning the lessons from high-profile academy failures that have been costly for taxpayers and damaging to children’s education.

The one-off costs to the Department for Education of converting schools to academies have been £745 million since 2010–11, but the full cost of conversion, including spending by schools and local authorities, is unclear.

The Committee is concerned that the Department is failing to give a clear sense of direction for maintained schools, academies, local authorities, pupils and parents.

Its policy for converting schools to academies is unclear, and there is substantial regional variation, not only in the extent to which schools have become academies but also in the quantity and quality of support available to struggling schools.
Chair's comments

Meg Hillier MP, Committee Chair said: "Government’s haste in pushing ahead with academisation has come at a cost, with high-profile failures indicating significant weaknesses in its assessment regime.

"The DfE accepts it should do better and we expect it to demonstrate it understands the reasons for these failures and will act on the lessons. It must strengthen scrutiny of prospective academies and sponsors."

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