No schools branded "coasting" by the government have been turned into an academy as a result, according to figures obtained by Tes.
The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto pledged to “turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an academy,” and the new category of “coasting school” was given legal force by last year’s Education and Adoption Act.
It aimed to pick out schools that fail to help pupils to "fulfil their potential”, and in 2015 the DfE said: “Those that cannot improve will be turned into academies under the leadership of our expert school sponsors.”
At the time, union leaders expressed fears the change was designed to convert more schools into academies.
By November 2016, when the DfE announced that 804 schools were likely to be classed as “coasting”, it said it expected "that only in a small minority of cases will regional schools commissioners (RSCs) direct a coasting maintained school to become a sponsored academy or move a coasting academy to a new trust”.
However, according to DfE data released under the Freedom of Information Act, in fact, none of the almost 500 maintained schools that were defined as coasting following last summer’s key stage 2 and 4 results have been turned into academies as a result.
It comes as it emerged that more than a quarter of schools that were legally required to become academies under new provisions in the Education and Adoption Act were still without a sponsor 12 months after a directive academy order was issued.
The DfE listed six options open to the RSCs who decide the fate of coasting schools: take no further action; provide “some additional support and challenge”; require a maintained school to take specific action; appoint additional governors or an interim executive board; convert it into a sponsored academy, or issue a termination warning notice to an academy.
But of the 756 schools and academies that were ultimately branded as “coasting” and have not since closed, more than half (51 per cent) were told no further action was needed, and 49 per cent were told they needed some extra support.
In only one case did RSCs use any of their other powers: a termination warning notice was issued to the Basildon Upper Academy.
Matthew Wolton, a partner specialising in academies at law firm Knights, said the “coasting” schools agenda involved “biting off more than you could chew”.
“If they had sorted out all their inadequate schools and you had RSCs sitting on their hands saying ‘we don’t have anything to do’, I could see RSCs tackling this,” he added.
A DfE spokesperson said: “RSCs have been working closely with schools that met the coasting definition in January 2017 to ensure that support is available to secure improvements.
“We have been clear that the purpose of the coasting definition is to identify schools that may need support, and that more formal intervention, such as becoming an academy, was likely to happen in only a small minority of cases.
“The data reflects this, and demonstrates the hard work that RSCs are already doing to support many of these schools.”
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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