Government failing to learn from high-profile academy failures

Portsmouth MP expresses concerns after PAC report reveals Government lack of learning from high profile academy failures

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South and member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has expressed his concern about levels of support for struggling schools and lack of direction in the sector after a PAC report revealed that the Government is failing to learn from high-profile academy failures.

The report found that in the rush to convert large numbers of schools to academies, the Department did not pay enough attention to ensuring that its scrutiny of applicants was sufficiently rigorous.

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.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

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.

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

 The Department should develop a better, up-to-date understanding of the costs that local authorities incur as part of converting schools to academies, and the extent to which these are accurately reflected in the fees charged to schools.”

PAC Chair Meg Hillier MP said:

 “The interests of pupils should be paramount in education but the increasingly incoherent schools system is putting this principle at risk. 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.

 “We are also concerned about how the stated aim of academisation – to drive up educational standards – is panning out in practice.

There is a risk that pupils at poorly performing and smaller schools, less attractive to academy trusts, will be left behind.

“Costs associated with conversion can reduce funding available to local authorities to support remaining maintained schools. Academisation can also undermine councils’ ability to provide school places.

“Oversight of the sector has become confusingly complex, which can place unnecessary burdens on schools and risks weakening decisions in the conversion process.

“Government must meet these challenges and be far clearer about the direction of travel if stakeholders, not least parents and pupils, are to have faith in its approach.”