There are now several types of academy covering all stages of education up to the age of 18.
Sponsored academies are the government’s intervention strategy of choice. Almost all have predecessor schools which have been low attaining schools, usually in urban areas of high deprivation. Most established sponsored academies share some common characteristics:
- new leadership
- new governance
- new legal status
- new name
- new uniform
- sometimes a new building.
Converter academies were introduced by the new government in 2010. Every school can choose to become an academy, provided that strong performers work in partnership with others to raise standards. Schools not rated ‘Outstanding’ or ’Good with Outstanding Features’ by Ofsted can apply to become an academy but need to demonstrate favourably:
- exam performance over the last three years
- comparison with local and national performance
- latest Ofsted findings regarding capacity to improve, outcomes and leadership
- any other matters that the school may rely on to demonstrate that it is performing well.
An academy chain is where two or more schools apply in a formal partnership to convert to academy status. Being part of a chain enables schools to benefit from the freedoms of academy status, work together to share expertise and services and so increase value for money and improve standards.
A federation is the name sometimes given to one of the models of academy chain; schools can have their own or shared Academy Trust and Governing Body.
Free Schools are academies which are entirely new to the state sector – they are either new schools or independent schools becoming state schools. Free Schools must be set up in response to order cheap medicine demand from parents and groups applying to set up Free Schools must submit a petition from parents with children of relevant ages for the particular school they wish to found.
The groups which set up Free Schools vary widely – from groups of teachers, to existing academy sponsors, existing schools and parents. What unites them is a desire for a new high quality school.