Academy conversion is conflicted

30th July 2010 at 01:00

Headteacher Elliott Furneaux makes a principled argument against converting to academy status at the expense of his school's less fortunate neighbours, and he is right about the consequences of doing so ("We'll do well out of becoming an academy, but I refuse to desert the less fortunate", July 23).

Since publication of the "ready reckoner" for academy funding on the Department for Education website, there has been confusion in schools, local authorities and even the DfE itself about the true position over funding - for schools choosing to convert and for those choosing not to. Work commissioned by the NUT identified that this arises because of the way in which the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) - which is responsible for academy funding - makes the calculation.

The YPLA's methodology for calculating the Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) for academies includes a number of types of expenditure which do not go directly to schools, such as the strategic management and running costs of the whole children's services directorate. It also includes the academy's "share" of the local authority's central spending on school improvement - but this is spent mostly on schools which need additional support, not on those already designated as "outstanding".

Indeed, a recent Parliamentary question highlighted the social differences between "outstanding" schools and the rest, with far more children on free school meals attending the latter. So this process really does represent a major shift of resource from less fortunate schools to their more advantaged neighbours.

These changes mean that authorities face the prospect of recovery rates being far higher than under current arrangements. The inevitable consequence of lots more academies is a threat not only to the level of centrally provided services for schools, but to the broader range of children's services.

How heads and governors can have committed themselves to converting before such fundamental issues are resolved beggars belief. It is to be hoped that most will adopt a more responsible approach and follow Mr Furneaux's lead.

Christine Blower, General secretary, teaching union the NUT.

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