Are Academies right for me?
I’m hoping to move to work nearer my partner who currently lives quite a way away. The only thing is that most of the schools there seem to be academies now. What do you think about working in an academy?
The first thing is that over the last few years, academies have changed. Changed beyond all recognition!
Originally they were failing schools that were taken up by sponsors who put money into them, as did the government, to try to turn them round. So teachers were sometimes a little wary because of the poor reputation for discipline and results that these schools had had previously.
Now the rules have changed, and Outstanding schools are changing to academy status.
From your point of view, deciding not to apply to a school that has become an academy could be limiting your choice quite severely, as there are so many of them now. And even if it isn’t an academy yet, it could well change. So my advice is to treat an academy just like any other school that you might be considering applying for, and research it thoroughly to see if it is suitable for you.
Check terms of employment
One of the major areas for you to investigate is that of the conditions of pay and employment. Academies could, in theory, pay you almost nothing and get you to work all the hours of the day. This is a big part of the teaching unions’ objections to academies, that they do not guarantee that they will maintain the favourable pay and conditions that have been won for teachers over the years. So do check this out.
Here is the view of the ATL. It has concerns, but recognises that colleagues need to understand what the conditions are. ATL on Academies
In an ideal world, the pay and conditions for teachers in Academies would mirror those in the maintained sector. But they do not always.
So the first thing that you should do is ask if they follow the School teachers’ pay and conditions document. Commonly called the STPCD
If they do, then there's no problem. But if they don't, it would be useful, but possibly unlikely, to have the following information before accepting, or even applying for, a teaching post in an Academy.
N.B. I am not suggesting that you write and ask these questions! But if you can get a copy of their conditions of employment you might get the answers to many of them.
1. Is there a job description?
2. Is there a clearly indicated line management structure?
3. What is the starting salary?
4. Is there a pay scale?
5. Is progression on the pay scale related to performance?
6. How is performance assessed?
7. Are there any additional payments for additional responsibilities?
8. What are the normal working hours?
9. How many after-school meetings take place per year?
10. What are the term dates?
11. What are the holiday arrangements? Are teachers free out of term?
12. What extra-curricular activities are expected of teachers?
13. What is the sickness policy and a teacher’s sick pay entitlement?
14. What is the maternity/paternity/adoption policy?
15. And the pay entitlement for the above?
16. What notice are teachers obliged to give?
17. Is it the same for receiving notice?
18. Does the Academy have a clear redundancy policy, if it needs to lose staff?
19. What PPA time or equivalent, are teachers entitled to?
20. What are the cover arrangements, do teachers do more than rarely cover?
Despite the concerns expressed above about pay and conditions in some (not all, some) Academies, I have visited quite a few academies, and in every case I have been very impressed, by the students and by the staff.
I am also impressed by the very professional approach of some of the chains that run these academies, with impeccable Human Resources management and outstanding opportunities for professional development for the teachers.
Here, for example, is what is offered by the United Learning group.
So don’t knock the academies without finding out more about them.
P.S. HERE is the DfE's take on academies.