Half of schools that are not currently academies say they are likely to convert between now and 2022, a survey of school leaders has suggested.
Last year the government backtracked on plans to require all non-academies to convert by 2022, following opposition from Conservative-run councils and backbench MPs.
Today’s findings, from a survey conducted by the Academies Show with support and analysis by an independent research consultant Mark Gill, suggest many schools are nevertheless likely to change their status by this date.
According to the latest government figures, 71 per cent of state-funded secondary schools and 26 per cent of primaries are currently academies.
Conversions to academies
When leaders of maintained schools were asked how likely it was that they would be an academy by 2022, 33 per cent answered “very”, and 18 per cent said “fairly”.
Just more than a third – 36 per cent – said it was “not very likely” or “not at all likely”.
Education secretary Justine Greening last year said it remains the government’s “ambition” that all schools become academies, despite the earlier U-turn.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, told Tes that becoming an academy is "one of the largest projects a school can undertake".
However, he added: “In February this year the government withdrew the £384 million it had earmarked to fund the conversion process, and with schools needing to find £3 billion in savings by 2020 to counteract cost pressures, schools may lack the resources to fully explore academy conversion."
MATs and satisfaction
The survey also pointed to a trend for stand-alone academies to join multi-academy trusts (MATs).
In total, 25 per cent of leaders of such schools said they were “very likely” to join or form a MAT by 2022, with a further 38 per cent describing this as “fairly likely”.
In contrast, 30 per cent said this was “not very likely” or “not at all likely”.
The results of the survey also pointed to satisfaction among leaders whose schools had become academies.
Almost two–thirds – 63 per cent – said conversion was positive for their school, compared to 12 per cent who said it was negative.
Lucy McPhail, director of the Academies Show, said: “Our research has highlighted the key concerns that many maintained schools have with becoming an academy.”
She said these would be explored further at the 22 November event.
'Schools can benefit'
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “As this survey shows, the majority of schools that have converted to become academies say it had a positive impact.
“By working in partnership with each other, schools can benefit from sharing staff, best practice and curriculum expertise. High-quality sponsors can also raise standards in underperforming schools, bringing fresh vision, strong leadership and clear accountability.”
The survey was conducted among senior leadership team members in maintained schools and academies across England. About 650 respondents took part in the online survey in September and October 2017 from email invitations sent by The Academies Show. The overall results are weighted to the approximate proportion of maintained schools and academies.
This year’s Academies Show Birmingham is designed to help all types of schools overcome their challenges, learn from their peers’ experiences and meet more than 200 education suppliers. Free registration is still available for those working in the education sector. The event takes place on 22 November