The Department for Education (DfE) is commissioning an in-depth investigation into why more local authority schools are not choosing to become academies.
The government says it wants to find out what is stopping maintained schools from converting so that it can design policies to tackle barriers to academisation.
It also wants a better understanding of what happens to schools that do convert to academy status and wants to hear from recent converters about what the benefits of the switch have been.
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The DfE is inviting bids from research companies for a contract worth up to £70,000 to gauge the views of around 600 school leaders from the start of the next academic year.
The research will take place between September this year and January 2021.
In a document outlining the contract, the DfE said: “The department’s aim is for every school that wants to, to have the opportunity to benefit from the autonomy and freedom to innovate that academy status can provide, and for schools to collaborate by coming together in strong trusts.
“However, there are gaps in the evidence on reasons why school leaders choose not to convert, and in-depth information about the perceived benefits to schools following conversion.”
Research companies have until 28 July to bid for a contract, which involves designing a survey and completing 600 interviews – split evenly between the leaders of recently converted academies and the leaders of schools that have not converted.
Companies will also be expected to analyse responses and produce a written report on the survey findings.
The DfE contract document says the research has two main aims: "to identify the various reasons that maintained schools feel prevent them from both converting and joining a MAT" and to "find evidence about the realities of converting, and for those who have done so, joining a MAT including the specific benefits they experience over time".
It adds: “The department seeks up-to-date evidence from schools that have recently converted on the experiences of being an academy and (where applicable) of being in a multi-academy trust (MAT). We also want evidence on why local authority schools have not chosen to become academies and join trusts.
"We hope to be able to use this information to design policies and communications to emphasise the attractions of being an academy in a trust and to tackle barriers that prevent schools from making that choice.”
More than 50 per cent of pupils are now educated in academies, however, the uptake of academy status is much higher among secondaries school than primaries.
Last year, the chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts Leora Cruddas said the country should now move to a system where all schools are run by trusts rather than being local authority maintained.