Struggling academies to face intervention

While the response to underachieving local authority schools was to transform them into academies, there is yet to be any formal guidelines instructing what should happen when academies are underperforming.

Powers will be extended to address failing and ‘coasting’ academies as well as local authority schools, with Morgan claiming that underperforming academies should be ‘held to account’.

Brian Lightman, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), argued underperformance must be tackled regardless of the type of school.

Currently the majority of secondary schools in England are being turned into academies. In his autumn statement, the Chancellor George Osborne reiterated the government’s aim to ‘make local authorities running schools a thing of the past’.

The proposal will be an amendment to the Education and Adoption Bill, currently instated in Parliament. The changes to legislation will mean new tougher measures to raise standards in coasting schools and will apply to all types of school, including local authority run and free schools.

The previous regulations did not apply to academies, however Morgan’s proposal will allow ‘robust action’ for all types of schools.

She said: "Underperformance is unacceptable wherever it occurs - whether that is in a maintained school or an academy.”

The Education Secretary maintained the Department for Education had already issued 122 warning notices to underperforming academies and free schools and changed the sponsor in 118 cases.

Academies which are underachieving will be ‘required to demonstrate they can improve significantly, or face the possibility of being moved to another sponsor’.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teachers' union, criticised the measures as being too little too late. She said: "Belatedly the government has recognised the nonsense of having a two-tier performance system which treats schools linked to their local authority more harshly than academies."

ASCL leader Lightman said: "If there is cause for concern over the performance of a school then intervention powers should apply regardless of whether it is a maintained school or an academy.

"So, the government's move to extend these powers to the oversight of academies is a logical and consistent step."

However, Lightman also counselled the intervention must consider all the underlying issues, including the ‘very severe recruitment problems’

Morgan said academies were ‘offering a standard of education never before seen in many communities’.

She said: "But it is only right that the small number of academies that are struggling to stretch their pupils are held to account to ensure all pupils fulfil their potential.

"We are committed to ensuring educational excellence everywhere and challenging all schools to raise their standards is a key part of this."

Read more