Exclusive: Failure to find sponsors raises 'serious' questions over academisation law

Dozens of 'inadequate' schools have been left without a match 12 months after being ordered to convert into an academy

Martin George

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More than a quarter of schools ordered to become academies under new government rules were still waiting for a sponsor 12 months later.

Under last year’s Education and Adoption Act, all maintained schools that Ofsted judges “inadequate” must become a sponsored academy.

However, a freedom of information request by Tes reveals that of 155 schools where a directive academy order had been in place for at least a year, 42 had yet to be matched with a sponsor, leading to questions over the effectiveness of the law.

It comes as Tes reveals that no schools have been turned into academies as a result of falling into the new category of "coasting schools", which was introduced by the same law, despite a 2015 Tory manifesto pledge that all coasting secondary schools would be converted.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the situation as “serious”.

“It leaves schools as orphan schools. Having been stigmatised and told what the solution would be, and then it not happening, it can’t be helpful to the school,” he said.

The data also highlighted big regional variations, with all schools in the East Midlands and Humber region that were issued with a directive academy order matched to a sponsor within a year, but half of those in Lancashire and West Yorkshire not.

The figures have again raised the question of how to help “untouchable schools” – those with financial or academic problems that scare off potential sponsors.

Matthew Wolton, a partner specialising in academies at law firm Knights, said: “You can force a school to become an academy, but you can’t force an academy trust to take on a school. The government can say a school must become an academy, but that means finding a trust that’s willing to take it on – and is the right trust to take it on.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure all children receive the best possible education, and high-quality sponsors raise standards in underperforming schools, bringing fresh vision, strong leadership and clear accountability.

“We have a track record of delivering a significant supply of high-quality sponsors for schools. Regional schools commissioners are well-placed to understand and respond to the needs of their regions so that schools are matched to a successful sponsor and improvement support is in place.”

This is an edited article from the 6 October edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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