Almost half of secondary schools are likely to contemplate academy status, a major survey has found.
The research by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) revealed that 46 per cent of respondents thought their school was "very likely" or "likely" to consider going it alone, under Michael Gove's academy reforms.
The news comes after the announcement that 32 academies opened this month under the Education Secretary's plans, after more than 2,000 schools expressed an interest with the Department for Education.
However, the survey also revealed a significant number of schools that are not interested in academy status, with 37 per cent of leaders saying it was unlikely they would consider it.
The findings reveal that despite vehement opposition from teaching unions, many school leaders are not ideologically against academy status, even though the numbers actually opening this term are still small.
The TES spoke to some who still felt unable to go ahead with becoming academies because of numerous unanswered questions about the implications of converting.
One, who asked not to be named, expressed concerns about the transfer of the pension deficit of support staff, from the local authority to school accounts.
A question mark also hangs over what extra funding they would get, especially as the public sector spending cuts start to bite. There are also concerns about the transfer of data from the predecessor school to the academy, and issues over the cost of transferring the licences of data management systems.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of ASCL, said he was "not surprised" so many schools were showing an interest in academy status. "But they are now weighing up the pros and cons," he added. "It shows that leaders are open-minded and are considering whether there are benefits. I don't think we know all the answers yet, and there is so much that needs to be clarified."
At the beginning of the month, teaching union leaders expressed delight that so few academies opened for the new school year.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said that the academies programme had "simply not caught the imagination of school leaders, teachers and parents".
"This large-scale rejection of academies indicates that schools do not see the benefits of such an unnecessary upheaval and wish to remain within the local, democratic family of schools," she said, adding it was "something of a failure" that so few schools had converted so far.
And the survey says ...
Budgets primary concern for heads contemplating switch
The ASCL survey of 2,338 school and college leaders revealed heads' primary concern for the weeks and months to come was how they will manage reducing budgets. The survey revealed that 20 per cent of school leaders saw this as their prime concern.
More than 13 per cent said they were worrying about improving exam results, and nearly the same proportion listed "preparing for inspection" among their top three worries. One in 10 were concerned about managing a reduction in staff and strategic financial planning.
ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman has told schools to "start planning now" to prepare for the budget cuts to come.
"Schools and colleges will have to make do with less and inevitably will have to face hard decisions about how to make their budgets stretch further," he added.
46% likely to consider going solo under Gove's reforms
37% unlikely to consider it
17% not applicable.