The number of schools applying to become academies has fallen, year-on-year, in each of the past six months, official statistics reveal.
There were 88 applications last month – the lowest number for February in any of the four years for which figures were provided.
And in January, just 63 applications were received by the Department for Education – compared with 102 last January.
Overall in 2017, there were 1,107 applications – a 10 per cent drop from 2016, when 1,232 schools applied to become academies.
However, the 2016 figure represented a sharp increase from the year before, with applications rising from 509 in 2015.
The figures come from a parliamentary question asked by Lucy Powell, who stepped down as shadow education secretary in June 2016.
The Labour MP said: “It’s clear from these figures that the rush to academisation at all costs, pushed by successive Conservative ministers, has hit the buffers with capacity problems in the system and schools turning away from academy conversion.
"With serious questions about the oversight, accountability and finances of some multi-academy trusts, a new secretary of state means a new opportunity to reassess government policy and I hope that ministers will accept that academisation is not the silver bullet for school improvement, and focus on more robust, place-based school improvement and oversight strategies.”
The statistics follow warnings about the challenges facing the academies sector, and delays in converting struggling schools into academies.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Since 2010 almost 7,000 schools have become academies – many of which are in the most disadvantaged areas of the country – and academic standards are rising, with 1.9 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools compared to 2010. 450,000 of those pupils study in a sponsored academy that was typically previously underperforming.
“This shows that the academies system – which gives autonomy and freedom to excellent leaders and teachers – can deliver an excellent education. To ensure this continues, we are investing more than £30 million in academy trusts in areas facing the greatest challenges to boost their ability to improve other schools.”