New figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) reveal that more than 50 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools in England are studying in either an academy or free school.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds says the milestone is “a decisive moment” and has urged more schools to consider the “freedom and opportunities” offered by academisation.
Mr Hinds said: “It is fantastic that 50 per cent of the pupils in state-funded schools in the country are now benefiting from the freedom and autonomy that an academy trust enjoys. But the academies programme has never really been about structures – it has been about trusting headteachers and school leaders to run schools.
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said: “This is an important moment. School trusts are no longer a policy initiative – a small project in a much larger education system. Half of children and young people in England are educated in the academy sector. We have come of age.
“Academies are making a positive difference by turning around schools which have failed children for generations.”
The 2010 Academies Act gave all schools in England the freedom to choose to become an academy. Increased freedoms included measures such as altering the length of the school day or adapting the curriculum to help every child access a school that meets their needs, interests and abilities.
By 2010, there were 203 academies – mostly in inner cities – but now more than 8,300 schools in the country have become an academy or opened as a free school.
The DfE schools census in October 2018 found there were 50.1 per cent of pupil in academies compared with 46.8 per cent in January 2018.
Partner, BJ Chong, said: “Palmers has a team who specialises in legal issues relating to academy conversion. A key aspect both for schools wishing to become academies and for existing trusts looking to grow their MAT is due diligence.
“Trustees and CEOs need to be fully aware of any potential issues which may make for a less than harmonious partnership.
“Although due diligence can be a lengthy, it is critical to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises which could jeopardise the success of all concerned.”
For help and advice on all aspects of academy conversion and due diligence, please contact us.