The Academy Model is Failing: we need all our schools to be democratically accountable

Hundreds of pupils, parents and staff in the North West face changes in the management of their schools when they return in September. 


The end of the school year is always a significant milestone in the lives of many young people, especially those leaving their primary or secondary school.  

But this summer is a time of greater change and uncertainty than normal, as hundreds of pupils, parents and staff face changes in the management of their schools when they return in September.

Two large multi-academy trusts that operate extensively in the North West are in the process of closing down. 

UCAT (the University of Chester Academies Trust) runs schools in Northwich, Warrington and Chester, while Bright Tribe runs schools in Whitehaven and Oldham. 

Both chains have been criticised for poor educational standards and financial mismanagement. 

UCAT was slammed by Ofsted for failing in its school improvement strategies and received a formal warning from the Education and Skills Funding Agency after a £3million deficit led it to consider cutting jobs across its schools. 

Bright Tribe was identified by the Education Policy Institute as having the lowest performing secondary schools in the country.  Its school in Whitehaven was criticised for having high levels of asbestos and dilapidated buildings.  The Trust received £1million of ‘northern hub’ funding but was found to have spent the majority of this on senior staff. 

It will be a relief to many that these chains will no longer be responsible for children’s education.  But they are not just bad apples.  The failures of these chains do not only reflect individual failings but systemic problems with the academy model.  Sadly, the mistakes of the past are being repeated.  These schools are not to be brought back into local authority control.  They are to be ‘rebrokered’ – that is, transferred to other multi academy trusts. 

Without proper scrutiny and accountability, academies are too often run in the interests of CEOs and senior managers.  The Education and Skills Funding Agency has written to more than 200 academy chains over recent years asking them to justify senior management pay exceeding £100,000.  Among them is the Heath Trust which runs schools in Litherland, Prescot, Runcorn and Cheshire.  Heath Trust paid its head more than £200,000 a year, despite financial difficulties that required emergency funding from the government. 

We need a system of public service delivery that is planned, rational and accountable.  We need services that are run in the public interest  - not in the selfish interests of the top managers. 

We urgently need a change in government policy and a shift away from the failed academy model. 


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