Academy transfers have risen back to pre-pandemic levels, with more switches triggered by trusts themselves than ever before.
Latest Department for Education figures revealed 275 academies – 2.7 per cent of those operating nationally – moved into a different trust in the last financial year.
This represents a 56.3 per cent rise on the number recorded in 2021-22 and the highest level since 2018. Transfers had dropped during the pandemic.
Bid for academy transfers en-masse
It comes after the government unveiled plans in April to expand, merge or create new multi-academy trusts in 55 priority areas in a bid to improve under-performing schools.
Department for Education (DfE) bosses believe their approach, set out in new “trust development statements”, will boost attainment in left-behind towns and counties.
The documents said leaders will be encouraged to either expand chains or launch new ones in the “education investment areas”, which have the nation’s weakest key stage 2 and GCSE results.
Academies minister Baroness Barran also told Schools Week the month before that the government will ramp up its use of powers to strip trusts of groups of underperforming academies en-masse.
The new DfE stats showed the number of forced transfers has risen by more than half to 38 over the last 12 months. Despite this, the figure is lower than at any point between April 2017 and April 2021.
Voluntary switches at record levels
Meanwhile, the number of academy switches initiated by trusts is the highest ever recorded.
There were 204 voluntary transfers were recorded in the last financial year. The most chain-initiated switches to have taken place prior to 2022-23 was the 183 recorded in 2018-19.
Last year experts argued that the 176 academy transfers that took place in 2021-22 – the lowest in six years – may have been caused by a Covid hangover.
Charlotte Pearce Cornish, director of education consultancy Premier Advisory Group, noted that the pandemic, along with the complexity and cost of switches, will have had a hand in the slowdown.