Tipping point on academy numbers

Credit: ITV Meridian

The newest figures from the government show that in many parts of the South and South East the number of academies is reaching a tipping point. In several local authorities there are now more secondary schools that are academies than those that are not - 57 per cent in Oxfordshire, 88 per cent in Medway and 61 per cent in Kent. And local authorities are facing a bit of a pincer movement - if the high achieving schools opt out through choice and the struggling schools are given no option - what happens to the squeezed middle?

You can't provide services if you have no customers - and if more and more schools choose to buy services in from elsewhere how can local authorities possibly continue to provide them for those that remain?

One primary school head teacher that I spoke to this week in another part of the region said a major factor in her school's decision to become an academy was the fact that budget cuts are having a severe impact on the level of service that her local council provides. In 20 years of working with her local authority she feels they've done a tremendous job - but recently began to feel that through no fault of theirs she wasn't getting value for the slice of money from her school budget that she paid for them to provide services.

In the end the school felt they could serve their children better by going it alone. The money she used to hand over to the local authority delivered her a half termly visit from a county Education Welfare Officer to work with families on attendance. Se's now employed her own one welfare office one day a week who is totally focused on her school and its needs.

So in the end it could be that more and more schools in the middle have to go down the academy route in the future because they actually have little choice.