Academy numbers have increased but vary by region – says new research
30 November 2016
There has been a steady increase in the number of academies that have opened since Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) took up their posts in September 2014, new research by the National Foundation for Educational Research has revealed.
The report, A Tale of Eight Regions(1), is the first in a two-part series(2) which explores the evolving schools’ landscape since RSCs were introduced. It examines how regions have changed in terms of the number and proportion of academies and free schools across the RSCs areas. It finds:
- the proportion of academies has increased but continues to vary by phase and by RSC region. The difference in the proportion of academies between the most and the least academised regions has increased over the last 12 months, from 16 to 20 percentage points
- two-thirds of secondary schools (67 per cent) are academies compared to around one in five primary schools (21 per cent)
- growth in primary academisation in 2016 has exceeded secondary growth at the national level for the first time since the Academies Act 2010 was passed. Growth in the proportion of schools becoming academies has been steadily falling across both phases in recent years, but the decline in growth in the secondary sector has been steeper
- the proportion of academies within RSC regions varies more than between regions
- proportions of underperforming LA-maintained schools becoming sponsored academies vary by region and phase
- regional variations in the number of schools in single-academy trusts (SATs) and multi-academy (MATs) may make it more difficult for RSCs to find sufficient sponsors from within a region.
RSCs are rapidly becoming an important and powerful part of the English education system. Appointed in September 2014 to oversee the growing numbers of academies in England, recent announcements have indicated that their roles will expand to include decision-making in tackling underperformance in LA-maintained schools and for coasting schools.
Karen Wespieser, Head of Impact at NFER, said: “In a rapidly changing school landscape, this report provides a timely picture of the pace of academisation and how it varies by region. This research, the first of two new reports, builds on NFER’s growing body of evidence about the self improving school system and our next report in the New Year will use the latest performance data to explore the future challenges RSCs face.”
Notes for editors
- Hillary, J., Easton, C., Bernardinelli, D. and Gee, G. (2016). A Tale of Eight Regions. Part 1: A snapshot of the evolving school system across Regional Schools Commissioner areas www.nfer.ac.uk/8regions
- The second part, to be published in early 2017, will use the latest performance data to explore the future challenges RSCs face in terms of schools in their areas requiring action and will include:
- a summary of changes in attainment by phase across RSC areas over time
- an analysis of the challenges faced by RSCs in terms of schools that are causing concern and switching to academy status
- an assessment of future sponsor capacity compared to the demand for new sponsors.
- NFER published a first report on RSCs in September 2015 A Guide to Regional Schools Commissioners.
- NFER has a worldwide reputation for providing independent and rigorous research in education. As a charity, any surplus generated by the Foundation is reinvested in research projects to provide evidence that improves education and the life chances of learners in the UK and beyond. www.nfer.ac.uk; @TheNFER