Academies

Forced academy conversions down to one a month

Slowdown in 'inadequate' schools converting comes despite Department for Education’s renewed academy drive

Slowdown in 'inadequate' schools converting comes despite Department for Education’s renewed academy drive

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The academisation of “inadequate” schools has slowed to just one conversion a month, official figures reveal.

Only three schools launched as academies between October and December following forced conversion, Schools Week analysis shows. It marks the lowest monthly opening rate on record, while September’s 11 conversions were the fewest since 2005.

The slowdown comes despite the Department for Education’s renewed academy drive that began early last year.

Experts said the pausing of routine Ofsted inspections when the pandemic hit had shrunk the academy pipeline of poorly rated schools. Those rated “inadequate” are forced to convert, with government officials finding sponsor trusts to offer support.

Ofsted statistics show that only 49 maintained schools had the lowest rating as of September, compared with 151 the previous year.

Only 67 schools were in the DfE “sponsor pipeline” list of approved conversions last month, down from 165 as the first lockdown began in March 2020.

Jeff Marshall, managing director of education advisers J&G Marshall, said the reduced number of conversions was “pretty much down to fewer inspections”.

Ofsted resumed routine inspections last term and said in November it would accelerate inspections of every school. But this week it agreed to “encourage” schools badly hit by the Omicron spread to request deferrals.

Marshall said school clients expected conversion rates to grow again once inspections “resume in earnest”.

Some believe Ofsted’s new inspection framework will “trigger more sponsored conversions in the second part of the year”, and the anticipated white paper will “kickstart a renewed push” to academise.

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