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Research round-up 2 March 2018

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Converting maintained schools to academies

This report, by the National Audit Office, examines whether the Department for Education has an effective system for converting maintained schools to academies.

Key findings:

  • In January 2018, 7,472 of the 21,538 state-funded schools in England (35%) were academies.
    • Of these, 6,996 had converted from maintained schools and 476 were free schools.
    • Academies were teaching an estimated 47% of pupils.
    • 72% of secondary schools were academies, compared with 27% of primary schools.
  • The Department for Education provided revenue funding of £17billion to academies in 2016-17, 35% of the total amount spent on schools.
  • In January 2018, the proportion of schools that were academies varied from 93% in Bromley to 6% in Lancashire, Lewisham and North Tyneside.
  • In 2016-17, the Department spent £81million on converting schools to academies, but this does not represent the full amount spent by all bodies involved.
  • It’s estimated that, in January 2018, there were about 37,000 children in maintained schools that Ofsted had rated as inadequate more than nine months before but that had not yet opened as academies
  • There appears to be a shortage of sponsors and multi-academy trusts with the capacity to support new academies.
    • In August 2016, the Department estimated that, by 2020, 2,700 more schools might need a sponsor. In January 2018, it had approved 1,101 sponsors, including nearly two-thirds of existing multi-academy trusts. Many sponsors support more than one school.
  • The number of schools moving to a new sponsor (‘rebrokerage’) has increased each year since 2011/12, rising to 204 academies in 2016/17.


  1. Now it no longer expects all schools to become academies, the Department should articulate its vision for the school system.
  2. The Department should reinforce and consistently apply tests of financial risk and due diligence to all academies and trustees, building on those used for prospective sponsors.
  3. The Department and the Education and Skills Funding Agency should improve how they share knowledge and expertise.
  4. The Department should take more effective action to speed up the process of converting inadequate schools
  1. There is scope for the Department to involve the Agency more in assessing financial risk during the conversion process and for both organisations to consolidate the information that they currently hold in multiple databases.
  1. The Department should improve its understanding of the factors limiting academy sponsors’ capacity to expand, or discouraging new sponsors from taking on underperforming schools.
  1. It should also evaluate the impact of the funding it has provided to build sponsor capacity. It should use this information to target initiatives to develop capacity in the local areas where need is greatest.

NAHT Courses: Academies and financial control, Moving towards joining or forming a multi-academy trust - London

Access to special schools in England

The Education Policy Institute has analysed the extent to which pupils have ‘access’ to certain schools.

Key findings

  • In cities, the average pupil at an urban special school travels around 4 miles each way. In rural areas the average travel distance is 10 miles each way.
  • There are a significant number of pupils that are travelling much further still. Even in wider city areas, around 1 in 10 pupils travel around 9 miles each way in order to get to school.
  • In the most rural areas in England, the figure is even more striking – with around 1 in 10 special school pupils having to travel over 23 miles one way just to get to school. 
  • Overall, pupils in special schools are, on average, travelling around three times as far as pupils in mainstream schools.
  • A reliance on home to school transport leaves pupils vulnerable to cuts in local authority budgets and changes to local provision. In the absence of alternative arrangements, these pupils could end up leaving the system altogether.

About the research

  • The report has used data from the National Pupil Database to examine the straight-line travel distances between a pupil’s home and their school.
  • EPI have defined a reasonable travel distance as that travelled by the pupil at the 90th percentile of all pupils in this type of area – i.e. 90 per cent of pupils travel less than this distance

NAHT Courses: Special schools, specialist and alternative provision conference 2018


Our lives, our care: Looked after children’s views on their well-being in 2017

Coram Voice, a not-for-profit organisation for children and young people, have released the Your Life, Your Care survey findings, which measures the wellbeing of looked-after children and young people.

Key findings

  • The majority of children (83%) emphasised that being in care had improved their lives.
  • Nearly one in four (24%) looked after girls (11-18yrs) reported lower life satisfaction and about one in ten boys (11%).
    • In the general population, 14% of girls (10-15yrs) and 11% of boys reported being unhappy with their lives (Children’s Society, 2016).
  • Young people who could not identify a trusted adult in their lives were nearly 11 times more likely to have low-wellbeing
  • Young people who reported that they did not take part in hobbies or activities were nearly 9 times more likely to have low well-being.


  • Avoid making children and young people in care feel different by highlighting their care status.
  • Enable and encourage children and young people to take part in activities and hobbies, including access to the outdoors.
  • Involve children and young people in decisions about their lives.
  • Ensure that every child and young person has a trusted adult in their lives.


Also this fortnight

  • The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has released new analysis of unpublished ONS data looking at the amount of unpaid overtime worked last year.  The analysis shows that more than half (53%) of teachers and educational professionals put in unpaid overtime – working, on average, an extra 12.5 hours per week.
  • The Education Datalab has released two new blogs looking at long-term disadvantage.
  • The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has published a framework for those working with children, including school leaders and teachers, describing the digital knowledge and skills that children and young people should have the opportunity to develop at different ages and stages of their lives. The framework covers self-image and identity; online relationships; online bullying; managing online information; health wellbeing and lifestyle.
  • The House of Commons Library has published a research briefing setting out the current position relating to home education in England. The briefing looks at the current position, proposals for reform as well as issues and reports published on home education.
  • The  Resolution Foundation has published a  report on the labour market for young people. In it, they highlight the important role for trade unions; suggesting that unions should be allowed to access workplaces in exchange for lower dues for young people.