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The many roads that can lead to Academy status

The routes by which a school can become an academy has evolved from the introduction of the Academies Act 2010.  The intention of the Academies Act 2010 was to simplify the process by which a school could become an academy (compared with the conversions under the Education Act 1996, which tended to be a protracted process) and allow schools the choice to become an academy for the first time.  However, as time has gone on the legislation has been amended and the routes by which a school may become an academy is now more complex.  We have summarised here the current position.

In 2010 legislation was introduced; namely the Academies Act 2010, to make it possible for all schools to become academies.  Under the Academies Act 2010, a maintained school’s governing body could elect to become an academy if it was a good or outstanding school. 

The Academies Act 2010 also gave the Secretary of State the power to force those schools who were eligible for intervention by virtue of the Education and Inspections Act 2006; those schools requiring significant improvement or schools requiring special measures; to become academies.  The Education and Adoption Act 2016 increased this power to a duty and the Secretary of State must now make an academy order in respect of a maintained school in England that has received an Ofsted judgement of ‘inadequate’. 

The Education and Adoption Act 2016 added another category of school which could be at risk of being forced into academisation; namely “coasting” schools.  

The coasting criteria are based on the same school performance measures (i.e. attainment and progress) used to set standards to hold schools to account (also referred to as “floor standards” for primary schools).

The Department for Education has confirmed the coasting definition for primary and secondary schools in 2017 in The Coasting Schools (England) Regulations 2017 which remains the same as in 2016.  Coasting schools are those where over three years, pupils are thought to not be progressing as much as they should.

For primary schools, the measures are:

  • In 2015, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils achieved expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics; and
  • In 2016, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved the expected standard at the end of primary schools and average progress made by pupils was less than -2.5 in English reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing; and
  • In 2017, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved the expected standard at the end of primary schools and average progress made by pupils was less than -2.5 in English reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing.

Schools must meet the criteria for three consecutive years to be deemed coasting.

For secondary schools, the measures are:

  • their Progress 8 score was below -0.257 in 2017; and
  • their Progress 8 score was below -0.256 in 2016; and
  • if fewer than 60 per cent of pupils achieved five A*-C grades in five GCSEs in 2015, including English maths, and less than the national median achieved the expected progress in both English and maths.

Schools will be notified by the Regional Schools Commissioner when they fall within the coasting definition but unlike the ‘inadequate’ category, being ‘coasting’ does not put the school in an ‘automatic’ forced academy conversion category.  

For more information or to speak to a member of our Education team contact Helen Hirst or Tina Morris on 01274 306 000.