House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE THE
CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE
MONDAY 25 February 2008
LESLEY KING and MARGARET TULLOCH
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee
on Monday 25 February 2008
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Chairman)
Mr. David Chaytor
Mr. John Heppell
Mrs. Sharon Hodgson
Mr. Andy Slaughter
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Lesley King, Director, Academy Networks, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, and Margaret Tulloch, Comprehensive Future/Research and Information on State Education, gave evidence.
Q80 <Chairman:> As people settle down, I welcome Lesley King and Margaret Tulloch to our proceedings. As you know, we shall look at diversity of schools, particularly academies. Those who have done their homework and looked at our other evidence session on this will know that it was an interesting first step into the territory.
We usually give witnesses a chance to introduce themselves, and you can say anything you want to get us started, or you can opt to go straight into questions. We shall start with Lesley King, as she is sitting on the left.
<Lesley King:> I shall say a couple of things to put myself into context. I have been a teacher since 1968, and have worked in six schools: a secondary modern and five comprehensives. I have held two headships over 19 years. Being in a specialist college was one of the most exciting initiatives I was ever involved in, hence my involvement with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and its local, regional, national and international networks. I retired and became an associate director of SSAT, and came out of retirement to manage the academy networks programme, which chimed exactly with my commitment to social justice and a wish to close the gap. I am now director of the trust, and there are five strands to our work, which I shall list.
The first strand is to support the integration of the academies into the other specialist family of schools; 90% of secondary schools are affiliated to the trust, hence wide networks. There is integration for two reasons: academies work in difficult circumstances, so they need those networks; and they often work in innovative ways, so they have things to give to the wider networks. Secondly, I have a communication function, both internal and external. Thirdly, I have a smaller sponsor-relations function, supporting sponsors from feasibility to implementation.
We run two programmes: the academies support programme, with which we are working with 98 academies and academies designate, and an academy leadership induction programme, where we place relatively experienced academy principals-it is a young programme, so no academy principal is very long in the tooth-for short periods with new academy principals.
Q81 <Chairman:> Margaret, you are also well known to this Committee for your high-profile role in education. Would you like a few moments to introduce yourself?
<Margaret Tulloch:> I prepared something to say, because I am probably in the minority in being less positive about certain aspects. Could I emphasise at the beginning that there is a need to focus on disadvantaged pupils to raise their attainment? I do not begrudge pupils in academies having access to excellent facilities.
Three years ago, this Committee raised some concerns about the academies programme and since then the Government's aim has been to accelerate it. There have been criticisms highlighted, for example, about the costs of the programme, the suitability and influence of the sponsors, whether or not standards of attainment are actually being raised, the pressure to introduce academies through Building Schools for the Future and the so-called preferred sponsor route. There have also been questions about exclusions, admissions and special needs. No doubt, if you decide to embark upon a more detailed study of academies, you will take these reports into account.
My label says "Comprehensive Future/Research and Information on State Education". I am also chair of the Advisory Centre for Education council. None of those organisations is primarily concerned with academies. However, Comprehensive Future's aims for fair admissions and an end to selection on ability and aptitude are relevant. I should like to mention a couple of points of concern, which we submitted to the as yet unpublished review of academies by the delivery unit and which you have. We think that there is a danger of increasing social segregation between schools as more and more schools become admissions authorities.
On banding, the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers report says: "the Department should undertake a closer review of admissions" and "fair banding" in academies "to ensure that there are no overt or covert barriers preventing the most disadvantaged pupils from accessing Academies." Some academies adopt the admissions criteria of local community schools, but others operate banding across those who apply, which can skew the intake in relation to the local area. We think that it is better to have banding across the reference group of the local authority. If academies require the test to be taken at the school, only those with parents able to bring them can sit the test. The Department for Children, Schools and Families has suggested that tests for banding-not just in respect of academies-could be done in the primary schools using the optional year 5 test, in which case that would, of course, be done for all children.
I was involved personally in an unsuccessful campaign against the setting up of two academies in the London borough of Merton where I am a secondary school governor. I am convinced by that experience, and in talking to many others, that there are some fundamental questions about the academy programme that need answers. The current academy prospectus says: "Independent status is crucial in enabling academies to succeed." I do not understand why what is being called the educational DNA, which the sponsors are supposed to inject, cannot be brought into a school through its becoming a trust school and therefore remaining in the maintained sector.
The RISE research has found that, in the initial stages, too much goes on behind closed doors. I do not understand why there is so much secrecy and lack of local accountability in negotiating the funding agreement. I also do not see why the sponsor needs an overall majority on the governing body. If their ideas are good, surely they should be able to convince their fellow governors through argument rather than force of numbers. We need to know what will be the effect on neighbouring schools: PricewaterhouseCoopers says that it will look at that in its last report. What will be the effect of increasing centralisation where so many levers now lie in the hands of the Secretary of State and future Secretaries of State, not with the local authority, the adjudicator or the ombudsman? What about the costs of the unit in Sanctuary Buildings, which will eventually be devoted, potentially, to 400 academies?
Lastly, I return to Comprehensive Future's aims. The DCSF says that academies are needed where schools face challenging circumstances. In 2003, Sir David Garrard kindly invited me to the launch of the Business Academy Bexley, where the then Prime Minister said something about this being the future for comprehensive schools. Bexley is a fully selective local authority, and the school on which Bexley's academy is based was-whether in name or not-a secondary modern. I know that not all schools at the bottom of the pecking order are there because of selection, but a significant number are. It seems that the Government are bold enough to hand those schools over to a private sponsor, but not bold enough to do something instead about removing one of the challenging circumstances that they face.
Q82 <Chairman:> Thank you. We now go into the question mode. Lesley, you heard what Margaret just said, and we have got you from rather opposite sides, but knowing both of you, you make a very reasonable case in every sense of the word. Lesley, the academies programme started in 2000, and you have been involved for how long?
<Lesley King:> The last three years.
Q83 <Chairman:> Are you satisfied with the progress? Where are we? What is your feeling?
<Lesley King:> Progress is as good as one would hope. It would be foolish to expect miracles when one works with schools, many of which had been neglected. Academy principals say that one of the things that worries them most is low aspirations of parents and students, and sometimes even of staff-quite understandably, because they have worked in poor circumstances for a long time, so turning it round is very difficult. On indicators about the academies programme, progress is good. I shall list one or two. At key stage 3, results are improving faster than in schools generally, and quite rapidly in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science. At key stage 4, again, the trajectory is good. There is faster improvement, according to our research, and indeed to the Department's research, than in schools generally.
More students are staying on post-16. Some academies are opening sixth forms for the first time, which is really very exciting. I have to be anecdotal; I do not make policy, I work in academies and I have been in the vast majority of academies, some of them several times. To see students for the first time enter sixth form and then ask questions such as, "What is an undergraduate?", makes me understand that sometimes those schools need their own sixth forms, because those people are not going to go the other side of the city for post-16 education.
Also, post-school progression is good. Last year, seven people from an academy in Bristol went to university; this year, 50 went to university. At Grace academy in Solihull, 67% of its first sixth form went to university-the vast majority being the first in their family to do so. Those indicators are good.
The second good indicator is that academies are popular with parents, including parents whom people have been saying for years were not terribly interested in their children's education. However, they are clamouring to get them into academies. Sometimes, there are three first-choice applications for every place. PricewaterhouseCoopers' evaluation says that teachers and pupils like being in academies, too. There have been good Ofsted reports, with no academy in special measures now, and good leadership.
Principals are attracted to academies in a way that they would not have been to the predecessor schools. They will therefore bring their expertise and experience in other schools to areas where they might not have thought to go before. They are attracted by the flexibility, by being part of a full-blooded moral movement and by the fact that they can really make a difference. So principals are good. And there is good news from the National Audit Office and from PricewaterhouseCoopers, although of course there are suggestions for further involvement.
Q84 <Chairman:> That will do. Lesley is saying that it could not have been done on the old model, that this rebranding and this new initiative are exciting and that a moral code is attached to it. Do you agree?
<Margaret Tulloch:> I do not accept that the other schools have some sort of immoral code. It is very difficult when trying to put a point of view, and I do not want to denigrate any of what I have heard, but I have not been convinced that you need to get out of the state system and have a set of independent, private schools in order to do that. I do not think that heads who approach their students to ensure that they have high aspirations are confined to academies. We need a system in which all schools reach those sorts of levels. We can argue, although I do not intend to, about whether the results are as good as those claimed on things such as GNVQs. The Anti Academies Alliance, during its hearing, produced a lot of evidence for that. Evidence is also available to argue against some of those points, but my point is that I do not see why we need to set up effectively a parallel system of secondary schools.
Q85 <Chairman:> Margaret, somebody might say to you, "Look, 10 years ago, the Government noticed that nothing much was happening in the areas of greatest deprivation for those children who only get one chance at education." You cannot blame the Government for thinking that something needed to be done.
<Margaret Tulloch:> I do not blame the Government at all. Of course, they are not just doing academies, but things such as London Challenge. Very often, some areas will be not so bad and others will need attention. You will not always get a school that is failing totally in every area. Many other programmes are going on to tackle those things quite quickly within schools. Those are the sorts of things that we read about in The Guardian this morning. I would have said that those are the sorts of things that the Government should focus on, rather than necessarily a programme that aims to place one in eight secondary schools in the independent sector.
Q86 <Mr. Heppell:> Strangely, most of the questions that I was going to ask have been answered. Do we need academies? Are they effective? How do they fit in with the rest of the system? Most of that has been touched on pretty adequately. I have one academy established in my area and another being established. It was apparent in the system before that there was a culture of not expecting a great deal of achievement. What do you think that academies have done specifically? In my area, they seem to have made people want to achieve more. I sometimes think that it is a bit of kidology and telling people that they will do better. If that is all that it is, that is fine. I was just wondering whether you think that academies have done, or could do, specific things in order to get rid of that culture? How do you think that that could be done within the state system?
<Lesley King:> I must make a small statement first. I do not think that academies are the only things that can raise achievement-far from it. I think that they are part of a diverse system that helps raise achievement. In saying that academies are doing well, I am not denigrating the rest of the system. For instance, I do not denigrate London Challenge. The SSAT works very closely with it.
We have not mentioned sponsors, which are important to lots of academies. They have a very limited focus on particular academies that they see as theirs. They want them to do well and bring an urgency from their outside interests, which can be lost when schools have entered a downward spiral. I think that they bring expertise-not necessarily in pedagogy as sponsors leave that to principals and staff, but in running organisations. That outside look can be useful. They also bring contacts, which are important, and they are certainly keen for an academy associated with them to succeed because of reputation and pride. They are also in it for the long haul, which is important for academies.
I have been involved in other initiatives. For example I was a field officer in Excellence in Cities. Academies are about the long haul and that attracts me. Later, I am sure that Martyn will talk about the importance of the City of London Corporation working with his academy. I can name lots of sponsors who have brought something extra, but there is also generally a sense that there is a huge spotlight on academies and that they have to succeed very quickly. People like Margaret help with that because they are under the spotlight and they know that they can never say, "Next year will do". They have to succeed very quickly indeed and engage in a huge culture change, including having generally new and experienced leadership in order to accelerate that.
<Chairman:> Lesley, your answers are very good, but are slightly long compared with what we are used to so we will have to control you a bit. John, do you want to ask something?
Q87 <Mr. Heppell:> My question is really for both of the witnesses again. Could the things that you have just mentioned-perhaps even sponsorship-have been done without making the academies independent and extending the fresh start initiative?
<Margaret Tulloch:> That is the point I was making. We do now have trust schools in which charitable bodies-
Q88 <Mr. Heppell:> Did you approve of the idea of trust schools when they first came in?
<Margaret Tulloch:> As I said, I do not approve of any group having a majority on the governing body and I extend that to faith schools. That is my personal opinion, but I do think that there is a place for external foundations to bring links, expertise, and enthusiasm.
It is interesting to think about the question of "in for the long haul". Will the people who have become sponsors be immortal? For example, what will happen to the Harris Federation when Lord Harris shuffles off this mortal coil? The Church of England has existed for a long time, but some of these federations have only just started so I do not think that we can say such things. I am not saying that there is not a role for people from outside. I think that governors bring that sort of outside expertise as well, which has been one of the big advantages of the Education Act 1996.
Q89 <Mr. Heppell:> Do you want to say something about that Lesley?
<Lesley King:> The principals in academies certainly appreciate the extra flexibility and independence that they get. Many of us experienced that during grant maintained status. It focused the mind marvellously to feel that "the buck stops here". I think that that is very important in academies, but that is a point of view. Of course, governance is important in academies too; as is expertise. All I can say anecdotally is that all the principals to whom I have spoken said that governance was more professional, more to the point and those involved knew exactly where the academy needed to go forward.
Q90 <Mr. Heppell:> Could the improvements in academies be because of the new-brush approach? Within the present system, I have seen comprehensive schools that were quite good, but as the head got older and was around for a long time, the schools gradually became slightly worse, then complacent, and then quite bad. Could improvements not just be because of the rush of a new idea? In my area I will have nothing but academies. When they become the norm, will I see improvements tail off gradually?
<Lesley King:> There is always that danger from a new initiative, but it is important that the academies programme and initiative changes all the time anyway. It is not the same programme as it was five and half years ago. New sponsors are on board and there are changes all the time; it is changing according to circumstances. The programme is better than it was five and a half years ago, but that is my personal view.
Q91 <Fiona Mactaggart:> I have a general question about school governance, which is the last great unreformed area. Head teachers go out and ask, "Is there somebody around here who can turn up to a meeting? If so, would you be a governor?" It strikes me that academies are different, in that several of their governors are, in effect, paid by the sponsors. I am not saying that they are paid to be governors, but they are employees and so on, and they have the kind of expertise that is needed. Is there a lesson for other kinds of schools? Perhaps we should be paying school governors.
<Lesley King:> I have never really thought about that, to be honest. Margaret might have some views on the matter.
<Fiona Mactaggart:> Okay, let Margaret start, but then I would be interested in your views, Lesley.
<Margaret Tulloch:> Should we be paying school governors? I do not think that we should. I value the idea that the governors bring the outside world into schools, and talk about schools to the outside world. I have always valued the idea that they speak up for education, and I think that one of the reasons why education is higher up the political agenda is that we opened up governing bodies, and opened up education to people who are not educationists. I do not think that paying the governors I have known would have made a lot of difference.
Before we start doing things like that, we have to look hard at what governors are for. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust produced a good report recently on governance. It said that we need to be clear about what governors are for. As much as I hesitate to say it, because there has been quite a lot of it already, I would encourage the Government to do even more fiddling about with governing bodies. We need to look at the role of governors before we decide to pay them.
Many times, governors have the sorts of jobs that other people should be paid to do. I was a primary school governor for many years-I am a secondary school governor now-and we relied very much on governors to do things for which we should have had money. That was in the 1980s, when there was hardly any money around. We relied on governors to help the school out and do things that, frankly, we should have paid others to do. So, yes, there are probably jobs that we should be paying more people to do, but I doubt whether those people should be governors.
<Lesley King:> I do not disagree with what Margaret has said. The important thing is not whether governors are paid but whether they understand their role vis-à-vis principals and the rest of the staff of the school All head teachers have had those six-hour meetings at which the colour of the curtains and such things are discussed. What is needed are brisk meetings at which governance is duly delivered.
Q92 <Annette Brooke:> Following on from that, if we could just assume for a moment, Margaret, that academies are tackling underachievement-I put that as an assumption because it makes the questioning easier-we have on the table so far good governance, good leadership and the ability to innovate and to have flexibility. My first question to Lesley is, on that basis, why do we need academies? Do they bring something else? Any of those three could be applied to the mainstream state system.
<Lesley King:> Sorry, could you repeat the three again?
<Annette Brooke:> Good governance, good leadership, and flexibility and freedom to innovate, which you mentioned.
<Lesley King:> Perhaps we would not have needed academies if those things had been the norm rather than the exception in some of the schools that I have been in that were predecessors to academies.
Q93 <Annette Brooke:> Perhaps I could ask Margaret the question. Could we provide those things in the state system?
<Margaret Tulloch:> Yes, not only could we, but we do. The programmes that I mentioned involve those sorts of things. I am sure that such things are happening in schools that are not academies. I am not totally clear about the freedom to innovate, and then there was the permission to be autonomous. I hope that you will ask the head teachers behind us what freedoms they have that they would not have if their school were not an academy. I think that there can be quite a lot of flexibility in the state system anyway. Those things could be, and are, in the maintained sector.
Q94 <Annette Brooke:> Can I come back to Lesley? Are they the three main ingredients? Do we not have to look at things such as admissions policy, extra money and so on? Are the three things that I mentioned the key?
<Lesley King:> I think that sponsors are slightly different from good governance. At least, they are connected with that, and the role of sponsors is also quite important.
There was a sense in the early days of the academies programme that new build was important because it was an important signal to students and staff that they were important, but that has now gone into the BSF programme, so it is something that is part and parcel of the Government's policy generally in terms of developing secondary schools. It was important in the early days to signal a change.
The academies programme is, as I said, a full-blooded attempt to deal with past failure. It might be easy to say, "Yes, it could have happened elsewhere", but the fact is that it did not always happen. Thousands of students who are doing well now, were not doing well, or their predecessors were not doing well five or six years ago. There has been progress in secondary schools, but there needs to be faster progress. The academies programme in my view-I think that the evidence is there-is speeding up progress. What is not to like?
Q95 <Annette Brooke:> I am just exploring the different routes and so on.
Margaret, do you think that the relative independent status of academies has any implications about which we should be concerned?
<Margaret Tulloch:> I think it has implications from a practical point of view. About 14 years ago, I was on a television programme, "From Butler to Baker", and the man who had retired from what was then probably called the Department of Education and Science was talking about the opting out of grant-maintained schools. He said that they should go, because his experience of being in Whitehall when direct-grant schools were the norm was that it was an expensive way of doing things, because Whitehall was running one-to-one relationships with a number of schools. That is why he thought that grant-maintained status should go. We could well find ourselves in a similar situation, because, if Whitehall runs a section of schools, it will cost quite a lot of money. I do not like to think of money going into structures-I would rather see it going into classrooms-and if you have a complex diverse system, you end up having money going down the cracks. It is far better that money is spent in the classroom.
I am concerned about centralisation, and the things I mentioned at the beginning. If a parent is unhappy about what is happening in an academy, in the end they can go to the Secretary of State. I am sorry, but I do not think that that is a good way to run a system.
Q96 <Chairman:> Margaret, the pure essence of your views chimes with what I have always believed in politically, but my experience as an elected politician is different. I have lived and worked in, and represented areas where the whole local authority structure was mind-bogglingly awful with no direction, no leadership and with total inertia and a refusal to accept that children were getting a terrible deal. I have known that as a local politician in Wales.
In a major city in Yorkshire, close to my constituency, but not in it, the education performance was so bad that it had to be replaced. No one would even apply for the job of director of education, and while that languished, children were getting a rotten deal. So you can see why a new Government, seeing such inertia and lack of leadership from governors, local authorities and almost everyone, had to do something. You can understand that your model is not one that always works, is it?
<Margaret Tulloch:> No, and I do not think that I am saying, "Let's go back to the '50s when everything was wonderful."
Q97 <Chairman:> I am talking about the '70s, '80s and '90s.
<Margaret Tulloch:> Or the '70s or whatever. What I am saying is that there are concerns about the academies programme-the ones I listed at the beginning, such as centralisation and governance. My concern about Comprehensive Future is that we have not actually done anything about those challenging circumstances.
I also have concerns about what seems to be the possibility that in certain areas schools will be replaced. This came over in the RISE work that I sent to the panel, and parents may be faced with a large number of faith schools. That is not parental choice in my view, so there are issues. When I came here not long ago you used the phrase, "drilling down". There is quite a lot of drilling down to do on the academies, and that really will happen if parents are unhappy-those sorts of things. They are issues. I asked the Advisory Centre for Education if it was starting to get parents ringing in about academies. I have to say that parents often do not know what type of school their children are attending. For example, I had an e-mail this morning about a child who had been excluded 15 times from an academy because of her haircut-somebody who had an excellent record before. I do not like to be a Jonah, and this was true of grant-maintained schools, too, but when things start to get difficult, you are aware of the centralisation and where people go. I do not hold a brief for a lot of local authorities; I spend a lot of time arguing with the local authority where I live. However, there are problems with centralisation.
<Chairman:> Thank you. Lynda Waltho.
Q98 <Lynda Waltho:> I should like to consider performance and local accountability. You have spoken about what sponsors can bring to an academy. What would you say are the main factors behind the reported improvements in pupil performance in academies?
<Lesley King:> The main factors? This will be a generalisation, because each academy has worked in different ways, but in the academies in which we have worked closely, there was close attention-I am sure that Margaret will say, quite rightly, that this could happen in every school, so I shall say it for her-to school data, so that there was no danger of aspirations being low for sections of children. There has been a renewed culture of determined optimism about children. It happens when new heads come in, too, but it has certainly been true. Data have been important.
I dispute what Margaret just slipped in about GNVQs, because in fact the trajectory of students with five A to Cs including maths and English has gone up considerably, too. There has been a concentration on the basics-on literacy and numeracy. Often, academy principals have despaired at the levels of literacy in students coming in, and they have therefore had to make it a huge priority. There has been extra training in areas such as middle leadership, where middle leaders had been good at teaching but not quite understood the leadership part, so there has been systematic work there. The grammar of pedagogy has been developed, so that there is an understanding in many academies about what makes a good lesson, too. If teachers do not teach that good lesson, they understand why not and what they must do to improve. It is the basic stuff.
Q99 <Lynda Waltho:> What would you then say to the perhaps rather cynical point that that is related to the fact that increasingly, academies take fewer children with SEN, fewer children with English as an additional language, and fewer children who have free school meals? Does that have any bearing, or is that too cynical a point?
<Lesley King:> I do not think that there is evidence to back up any of that at all. There are 25% more places in academies than there were in the predecessor schools, so sometimes academies might well have a smaller percentage of students with free school meals, but that is because there are more children in there generally. There is no evidence at all that students with free school meals are being debarred from academies; in fact, any evidence that there is would show that academies take more children with special educational needs, or who have free school meals, than there are such children in their catchment area.
Q100 <Lynda Waltho:> I disagree, because the evidence is slightly different, but I take your point. Margaret, would you like to comment on any of that?
<Margaret Tulloch:> I do not think that I would. You are making the points that I would have made. I am not sure that we will get anywhere arguing about the changes in intake. Of course, when Michael Barber promoted such specialist-type schools in the '80s, it was partly because they were worried about the so-called middle classes deserting the state sector. In a way, the balance of intake might have changed anyway.
As I said at the beginning, PricewaterhouseCoopers said that the DCSF should look at admissions and banding. That was in July last year and I do not know whether they have. Your point about SEN and children with English as an additional language would be covered by looking at the admissions process. As you might remember, my point was that if you band by asking children to take a test in school on a Saturday morning, you will band across only those whose parents can take them into school on a Saturday morning. I hope that I made the point at the beginning strongly enough about how admissions are very important and should be looked at.
Q101 <Lynda Waltho:> Following on from your earlier point about how we tackle individual issues with pupils, there is a school of thought that says that rather than have an institutionally-based answer, such as academies, we perhaps should be targeting individuals wherever they are and whichever route they take.
<Margaret Tulloch:> Are you talking about personalised learning?
Q102 <Lynda Waltho:> Indeed. Is that your point?
<Margaret Tulloch:> As I said, a lot of other things are happening within Government policy that are to do not with changing institutions, but with going into them and targeting help and support. I think that that is the way forward.
Q103 <Lynda Waltho:> So not only would it be a less expensive option, but it would be a more powerful one.
<Margaret Tulloch:> Yes.
<Lynda Waltho:> I wonder whether I could come in on collaboration between schools.
<Chairman:> Lynda, could you hold on please. Andy, do you want to come in on the last point, or do you want to hold on until Lynda has finished?
<Mr. Slaughter:> I have a question on the previous point about whether academies tackle disadvantage, but I can wait if necessary.
<Chairman:> Go on.
Q104 <Mr. Slaughter:> I thought that a couple of comments made were a bit complacent-on the points about what there is not to like and how there is no evidence. I hold no brief against academies. I am very happy that one voluntary-aided school in my area has become an academy and that another is planned. However, my experience so far has been that they do not target areas with the greatest number of free school meals. On the contrary they cover takeover schools or catchment areas where there is likely to be a much lower percentage of children on free school meals. There is no clear co-operation with existing schools, on which they could have a detrimental effect. Furthermore, the procurement process means that it is very unclear to residents and potential school users-parents and children-exactly what they are getting. There is a kind of pig in a poke element. That adds up to some serious concerns not about the objectives of academies but about whether their implementation is fulfilling those.
<Lesley King:> It is certainly true that schools in an area worry about just that when an academy is due to open. Often the worried schools are affiliated with the trust in the same way as the academy will be. However, we have no hard evidence that schools have suffered because of an academy coming into the area. Sometimes we have found that results have gone up in those schools. Unfortunately, sometimes, if a school is very much under-performing in an area, other schools feel complacent-to use your word-because at least they are not at the bottom of the heap. Change sometimes galvanises all schools in an area. We have certainly seen that happen. That can only be a good thing. It is a system of sort of oblique leadership, rather than an active one.
Q105 <Mr. Slaughter:> I do not think you are taking my point. I have no objection in principle to academies trying to do a distinct job. In fact, that is to be lauded. However, the net effect of putting something slightly alien or different into the local education market is that not enough concern is then paid to what is happening across the board in that local education authority area. If that works, you may take an existing school that has done badly after other things have been tried and turn it round. There are examples of that. But if that is not working, you may be effectively creating an island of privilege within an LEA area.
There is also the possibility of selection. If academies are sited in areas that are not the most deprived, but in the better ones-that is, picking easy targets-not only can you be complacent and say, "Look, aren't we doing a good job?", but you could also say, "Clearly, the other schools in the area are not doing so well." I do not think there is enough analysis of that.
<Chairman:> That was a long question.
<Lesley King:> The local authority would have some responsibility to speculate on the future of education in its area, if another school came in, and plan accordingly. That is part of its role. Many local authorities now see academies as part of a bigger strategy to raise achievement. That is how it should be.
Q106 <Chairman:> Is not one of the problems that Andy is pointing out that with Building Schools for the Future a local authority gets the chance of visioning what secondary provision should be over the next 20 or 30 years? In a sense, if an academy is already there and it is not part of Building Schools for the Future no one does the visioning process, do they? If you do not have the BSF process, when you do get the chance, as a local authority, to say, "This is what we want secondary education in this area to look like over the next 20 or 30 years"?
<Lesley King:> I would have thought that that was your responsibility, anyway. Academies are now under the BSF, aren't they, in terms of new build.
Q107 <Mr. Slaughter:> I cannot see it working quite like that. It may work like that, but the danger is that it works in the opposite way, with the academy being isolated, self-contained and in some senses elitist. I am afraid that a lot of the comments that you made when mentioning the expertise, moral values and things of that kind imply a certain type of elitism. The LEA might say, "Well, we don't have to worry about that. They can take care of themselves. We'll worry about picking up the pieces." There are analogies with the grammar school and secondary modern system.
<Lesley King:> It implies that academies do not want to play a full part in the education system in their area. I do not think that there is evidence that that is true. I think that at the beginning, when an academy first opens it has to look internally, because its first task is to provide a satisfactory education for the children whom it is directly responsible for. However, there are many examples of academies playing a strong role in their community as part of the system. I could give you examples that might make you more optimistic.
<Chairman:> Let's hold on to that.
Q108 <Lynda Waltho:> I should like to expand the point about collaboration. From what you said, you believe, as do I, that collaboration is vital for the neighbouring schools.
<Lesley King:> Absolutely.
Q109 <Lynda Waltho:> In that case, should not academies be made to join with particular partnerships, for instance, with a behavioural partnership, which generally they have the choice not to do? It is, effectively, up to the governors what they opt in to. What is your view on that? It is possible that collaboration could fly out of the window at that point, so why do they have that option?
<Chairman:> Who are you asking?
<Lynda Waltho:> I am sorry to zero in on you, Lesley. Perhaps Margaret has a view on that as well.
<Margaret Tulloch:> I have views on most things.
<Lesley King:> I suppose, philosophically, voluntary collaboration is better than forced collaboration, whatever happens. You can bring schools together but you cannot necessarily force them to work together. As an ex-head, whichever school I was in, I would bristle if my local authority told me that I had to collaborate. It should be the job of the local authority to make it worth the while of schools to collaborate, so that they can see mutual benefit. Our experience of collaboration is that voluntary collaboration is better. There are certainly lots of examples of that. I do not know of any academies that have refused to collaborate, but you may be able to tell me that there are lots of examples of that. I do not have evidence that that is the case.
Q110 <Lynda Waltho:> The particular example I was looking at was a local behavioural partnership in Manchester-
<Lesley King:> In Manchester?
<Lynda Waltho:> Yes; a school decided not to opt in to the partnership. I wonder how useful that is to the neighbouring schools and why that option needs to be there.
<Lesley King:> Ideally, schools and academies need to collaborate. I would need to know the reasons for that.
<Chairman:> A quick question from John.
Q111 <Mr. Heppell:> Following up on Andrew's point, is there any evidence of academies being sited in areas that are not deprived? In my area, as far as I am concerned, the more extra help the academy gets, the better, because it has always had failing schools in the past, and now, suddenly, everything seems to be rosy compared with how it was, which is great. But the implication seems to be that academies are being sited in better-off areas. Is there any evidence that local authorities are siting academies in better-off areas to make them into elitist schools?
<Lesley King:> I do not have the entire academy programme at my fingertips, and my job is not to make policy, but to work in academies. One or two academies have been developed with a particular innovative mission in mind. For example, a Steiner academy is being developed in Herefordshire, which I would not have said is an area of extreme deprivation. However, there are particular reasons for that related to innovation and providing more state school places in an area that needs it. In general, though, I would not say that is the case.
Q112 <Paul Holmes:> I am told that I should declare an interest because I am on the steering committee of "Comprehensive Future". I was intrigued by something that you said, Lesley, about there being no evidence to show any sort of change in the profile of pupils who go into academies. Professor Stephen Gorard looked at three academies that opened in 2002, and found that in those schools the share of pupils eligible for free school meals dropped by 11 percentage points to 15% In its fourth annual report, PricewaterhouseCoopers looked at 24 academies and found that the percentage of pupils from deprived backgrounds in those academies fell from 42% to 36% over a four-year period. It also found a trend towards higher attainment levels among year 7 pupils coming into the academies as the years went by, and that permanent exclusions within those academies were four times-400%-higher than in comparable schools. So, there seems to be fairly convincing evidence.
I taught in state schools for 22 years. If any of the schools I worked in had expelled four times as many disruptive kids, and cut the number of kids coming in who qualified for free school meals or had special educational needs, results would have gone up. All three of them were good schools, but results would have gone up anyway. It is not rocket science, is it?
<Lesley King:> There are two issues there. On exclusions, it is certainly true that academies have been seen to exclude more students overall than other schools generally, but that percentage and number is going down rapidly as they establish. That could be partly because some schools, particularly some academies-I shall not name them because they are developing-received more than their fair share of excluded students before they became academies, because they were the only schools around that were not full. They therefore become almost a dumping ground for excluded students. In some ways, that explains it.
Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which I have considered closely, shows that academies admit higher proportions of pupils who are eligible for free school meals than the proportion living in their districts. There may be academy principals in the room who can confirm this: some schools that were half empty are now full, and therefore the proportion, but not the number, of students with free school meals has gone down.
That is an important thing. I would not wish to support an academy that was just a ghetto for poor and disadvantaged students but one that had a mixed profile, that everybody wanted to come to, as long as students with free school meals were not barred from coming.
Q113 <Paul Holmes:> I do not dispute the points that you made. The academy deals with the situation faced by failing sink schools that had to take all the problems, by reducing the number of kids with special educational needs and from poor backgrounds, by expelling kids and so on.
<Lesley King:> No. It is the percentage, not the numbers.
Q114 <Paul Holmes:> Those kids then go somewhere else-to the neighbouring schools-and we are back to the point that Andy Slaughter was making about moving the problems elsewhere.
<Lesley King:> Sometimes in the statistics there is confusion between percentage and numbers. I would worry if academies were turning away students who receive free school meals or students with special educational needs, but I would be very pleased if more people come who are more representative. I would be pleased with a more balanced intake, as long as others are not debarred. I would have to look at your statistics more carefully.
Q115 <Chairman:> We are coming to the end of our time. Margaret, you have been a bit neglected, so can I ask you a last question? Comprehensive Future sounds like a deeply conservative organisation to me. You do not really want anything to change, do you? Some of us feel that you have deserted us. Those of us who might have believed in something called comprehensive education do not quite understand these days what it means. It is a title that most schools rapidly deserted. We worked out in the last Committee, in a previous incarnation, that none of the schools in our constituencies had "comprehensive" in their title. Has there been any thought about what comprehensives actually mean, or should mean, for the future of our children?
<Margaret Tulloch:> How long have we got?
<Chairman:> About two minutes.
<Margaret Tulloch:> Comprehensive Future-I have been confused with Conservative Future when standing outside a party conference-campaigns on admissions and ending selection. In terms of comprehensive intake, we are talking about ending selection. We have a long way to go on that, as I tried to say at the beginning of my contribution.
When we talk about what is meant by a comprehensive school and the comprehensive ideal, far better educationists than I have put it well. Richard Pring and Margaret Maden have spoken about what is gained from having children from all backgrounds working together. That is obviously broader. It is what I, as a comprehensive school governor and as somebody who sent both her children to the local comprehensive, have always supported. There is an important ideal there, and it is to do with social cohesion. In respect of Comprehensive Future, yes, we want a non-selective future, but one has to be positive rather than negative.
Q116 <Chairman:> But are you not a rather conservative organisation? If anybody changes anything, you say that it is not truly comprehensive.
<Margaret Tulloch:> No, I am trying to make the point that my organisation is talking about ending selection. There is now all-party agreement that selection at 11 is a bad thing.
Q117 <Chairman:> Do you want to get rid of independent schools as well?
<Margaret Tulloch:> No. I personally might want all kinds of things, but Comprehensive Future is not into talking about private education.
Q118 <Chairman:> It is a rather stateist solution, is it not? Everything has to be decided according to one model.
<Margaret Tulloch:> You believe the John Patten idea that these are monoliths and all teaching is the same. My experience of comprehensive schools is that they are often very different. The idea of forcing schools to appear specialist ignores the fact that many schools are very different. Where they could, parents were able to work out the ethos of various schools.
Q119 <Chairman:> But if an academy truly represents the community in which it sits, as many of them do, can it not be a better comprehensive than some of the comprehensives that you stand up for?
<Margaret Tulloch:> I am not standing up for many-I am talking about selection. The point is that it will be difficult to talk about academies. Some will be very different sorts of places, but some will be-already are-indistinguishable from the local community comprehensive. My point is about this being, in essence, a centralising move that will create difficulties. Yes, many will be almost indistinguishable. There are questions about accountability, governance and probably funding, which we have not touched on much. One has to go to Companies House to find out how much is really being spent. Those issues will return and will be a problem.
<Chairman:> Margaret and Lesley, thank you very much. I hope that you do not feel so neglected now, Margaret. You have both made excellent contributions and I thank you for sparing the time to appear before the Committee.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Martyn Coles, Principal, City of London Academy (Southwark), Jean Hickman, Principal, Walsall Academy, Graham Badman, Managing Director, Children, Families and Education, Kent County Council, and Lucy Heller, Managing Director, ARK Schools, Absolute Return for Kids, gave evidence.
Q120 <>Chairman: Can I have the next set of witnesses? Graham Badman, Lucy Heller, Jean Hickman and Martyn Coles. We know all of you, if not by reputation then by the fact that we have visited with you and had discussions with you. Graham, you used to be an adviser to the previous incarnation of the Committee, but I do not think that you have ever given evidence to it.
<Graham Badman:> Only once, but I think that it was easier on the other side of the fence.
Q121 <Chairman:> The previous incarnation of the Committee visited your school, Martyn, so we know about you. Jean, we have not visited your academy so forgive us for that, but we await an invitation.
<Jean Hickman:> You are welcome to visit.
Q122 <Chairman:> Most of us know Lucy Heller from Absolute Return for Kids very well indeed.
You have the chance to see what a fair and balanced Committee this is. Everybody gets a fair share of questions and if there is a little imbalance, the Chairman will try to make it good, or someone will. You run academies and are supporters of academies. Tell us where we are with academies. You have just listened to the very different opinions we have had in the first session. Graham, let's start with you.
<Graham Badman:> As an authority, as the Committee will know, we have been very proactive. We are engaged as a sponsor in all the academies that are opened, with the Spires academy slightly different in terms of land. We have seven open, nine approved and more in the pipeline, and the local authority is a sponsor of every one. We saw academies as an element of our overall secondary strategy, which was the precursor to BSF-it was actually written before BSF came on the horizon-and it helped us enormously in structuring ourselves. We prepared the ground by, for example, taking more than 100 heads to America to look at charter schools and at initiatives around federations, and to look at schools within schooling systems. One of the important things that I want to say about academies is that I do not want to separate them from the other things that we are doing in terms of building multi-agency locality-based children's services, partnerships and our overall policy of community renewal.
As an authority, I was intrigued by some of the other comments about the role of local authorities. I am always cautious about speaking for elected members, but I think that I am on safe ground in saying that we regard ourselves as moving very much towards a commissioning authority; an authority that is strategic and that commissions services. Although we have plans on 15 academies, I do not think that any of my elected members see that as a threat to the local authority in any way-first, because we are engaged within them; and secondly, because there is a view that schools will work with a local authority if they value it. If they do not value it, they will not work with it, whatever structure is wrapped around the schooling system.
So that I am not in any way disingenuous, I will also tell you that in terms of the first academy that we created, which was in Ramsgate, we deliberately set to work with the Government on academies to solve a problem. When I joined the authority, Ramsgate was cast as the worst school in England. That was perhaps right; it probably was. It had had every initiative known to man, local authority intervention and Government intervention. The school had had a plethora of initiatives, none of which worked, and the consequence was a rate of 3% five A* to C grades for some of the most deprived kids you would ever wish to meet. So we set up a strategy that included academies to try to challenge the orthodox, and to introduce something, in the context of a selective Kent, that offered equality of opportunity and access. I do not think we would argue that all the problems have been solved, and there are some issues about governors. I wish that I had been here to answer Fiona Mactaggart's question.
<Chairman:> You will get it later.
<Graham Badman:> There are some issues to be resolved about the social mix in academies, but perhaps you will come back to me on that. All in all, I am a fan.
Q123 <Chairman:> Lucy Heller, you represent an organisation-some of us worried about the quality of sponsorship in some of the earlier academies-that seems to have met that criticism. Tell us a little about your involvement and about Absolute Return for Kids.
<Lucy Heller:> ARK Schools was set up four years ago, and is a wing of ARK, a UK children's charity, which until then had been involved mainly in projects outside the UK, in eastern Europe and South Africa. Its work in this country had been primarily as a grant-giver on a small scale to a number of Home-Start projects. We were enthusiastic about the academies programme because we saw it as a way of having a real impact on educational opportunity in this country.
Our starting point was the desire to ensure that inner-city children had those educational opportunities. The starting point for research was much the same as the research by the London School of Economics that you heard about last month. Our conclusions were rather different in that we were saying that one of the things that we were battling against was the apparently iron-clad link between class and achievement in this country, but if you look at certain specific examples, schools can make a difference.
In our case, like Kent, we looked to America and the charter school movement, which has a huge experimental base to look at. There are now 3,500 charter schools, which are essentially academies without the capital funding, and some interesting things emerge about what does make a difference, and specifically what makes a difference in the inner city. I was pleased, but not entirely surprised, to find that our aims are exactly those of Margaret's in terms of providing educational opportunity. Again, we take, not surprisingly, a more optimistic view of what the academies can and indeed have done.
Answering your point about the choices that have been made by sponsors-not just ARK, but with a group of the other multiple sponsors-we responded to the Prime Minister's delivery unit review of academies, a copy of which I think you have. It looks exactly at questions such as the siting of academies, and what happens with free school meals. Together with the group of six sponsors, we account for 30 of the 83 open academies, and there is a fairly mixed bag, because it includes at least one independent school that has become an academy, which is clearly slightly the odd one in the bunch. But generally, you will see from the paper that they are situated in the most deprived areas. In fact, the median academy in that group, which includes the independent one, is situated just above the bottom 20% of most deprived areas in the country.
On free school meals, we, again like many sponsors, have taken a vow of non-selection and have not opted to use the 10% selection criteria that we, like any other specialist school, could use. We have opted to go for local authority admission criteria simply to make the point that we are not interested in changing the intake.
It is inevitably the case that if you are talking about the 200 lowest performing schools in the country, which was, after all, the initial target, and if you succeed in doing what academies set out to do and turn those schools round, you will go from being a sink school-a school of last resort for those least able to get their children in anywhere else-to a school of choice. That has direct implications for the intake, which is good not only for the school but for the original cohort of children to be part of a truly comprehensive school. In that sense, we are the future of comprehensive education, because that is how we see our job-creating true comprehensive schools for the local community.
Q124 <Chairman:> Thank you. Jean Hickman?
<Jean Hickman:> I am head of Walsall academy. I went five years ago to the predecessor school, which was a failing school and had a failing authority. We are five years old now, and many things that you have talked about apply specifically to us.
However, I should like to discuss independence, the reasons why I feel that the academy provides for the education work force who are part of my school in Walsall, and the things that are different about it. You asked what is so special about the academy-independence from a local authority that was not functioning. Not all LAs do not function, but if the LA does not, a school is failing and children have been failed year after year, there is a problem. Therefore, the independence is important. The sponsors and governors, who are experienced industrialists from the outside world, in a slightly introverted borough, have made a big difference. Different terms and conditions for the school's teaching and support staff-not tied down therefore to the LA terms and conditions-make for great innovatory opportunities.
It has been possible to create a comprehensive school. I have taught for 34 years, all but one of them in comprehensive schools, so I think I know what one means. Simply, a comprehensive school must be an all-ability, socio-economic mix of the community that you serve. That is a comprehensive school. The school I took over was not doing that; it now is.
Lastly, the innovation is great for me. It is not so much innovation against political agendas or curricula that other state schools use; the innovation that I enjoy is that of taking a systematic approach to delivering the educational services to my children in a way that suits them, not dictated to me for what would be 18 schools. Currently, there are 18 schools in the borough for which I work, and all have to do it one way. My systems are specific to my community in Walsall.
Q125 <Chairman:> Thank you. Martyn Coles?
<Martyn Coles:> My situation is slightly different, because my academy was formed where there was no predecessor school. It is sponsored by the City of London corporation. There was a shortage of school places in Southwark in 2002, and the academy opened with the full co-operation of the local authority in 2003. As Committee members will know, Southwark was a seriously underperforming local authority at that time, and it had two private contractors before the local authority successfully took the authority back in 2006.
The shortage of places meant that a school was needed, and to be honest, the local authorities thought that the academy was a good way of doing it where they did not have to pay for the building, and all credit to them for realising that. There was full co-operation at the time, and one of the governors of the academy is the leader of Southwark council.
We believe strongly that we are a comprehensive school. I completely agree with Jean's point. I was a local authority head teacher in Tower Hamlets for the previous eight years, and all of my career I have taught in London, but I had never worked in a truly comprehensive school before. There is a banding system in Southwark; it is organised by the local authority. The examinations are taken in the primary schools, there are no Saturdays; there was no selection. The primary schools organised the banding test, which is a non-verbal reasoning test that is felt to be the fairest to those pupils who speak English as an additional language and those who have special needs of varying kinds. We admit on five equal bands, as do all other schools in the local authority. The local authority took that over this year and it administers all our admissions, so we feel that everything is transparent with the academy. We feel that we are very much a comprehensive school and part of the local community.
One thing that has not been mentioned today, but which is important, is that we are part of local regeneration, too. In inner-city areas such as Bermondsey, where my school is, regeneration is important, whether it is housing, social services or education, and we see ourselves as a full partner in all those things. I do not disagree with anything my colleagues here have said.
I have a couple more points, and I am sure your questioners will ask me more if necessary. Lesley King commented on the issue before, and I must say that I like the idea of our governance. The City of London corporation nominates eight of the 15 governors, and to give the Committee an example, four are council members in the corporation and four are nominated from City institutions and places. We have somebody from the Legal Aid Commission, an architect, somebody who works for KPMG and somebody who manages their own company. The expertise that those people bring in is quite remarkable. I was a local authority head for eight years and, before that, when I was in Islington, a deputy for seven years. Those people, along with the local authority representative, who happens to be the leader of the council, bring an efficiency and focus to staff, parents, myself and representatives from the Department.
That focus has been remarkable, compared with my previous experiences as a local authority head. Meetings are focused and dealt with quite efficiently. Those are certainly the kind of people who, if they have a question, ring me up beforehand and put me on the spot. I do not always like it there, but it is what they do and it is a damn sight more efficient than it was in my previous school.
In terms of governance, that is fine. In terms of independence, it is the independence of choice. I buy in to quite a few of the local authority services and we take a full part in co-operation with other schools. That is not to say that we are the same as the other schools and that our academy is becoming like local authority schools. We are not. It is just that we have the choice of whether to buy those in. As Graham said, if there are good local authority services, we buy them, which we do. We work fully with other schools in the borough. Indeed, I was chair of a council of Southwark head teachers the year before last.
<Chairman:> Thank you. I think that we are sufficiently warmed up by the new witnesses. Over to you, Paul.
Q126 <Paul Holmes:> I am intrigued by the two heads of academies, one of which I have visited. They emphasised the absolute incisiveness of having business people as sponsors on the governing bodies. Are you saying that you do not approve of the trend in academies now of local authorities, universities and other such organisations sponsoring academies, because they do not have that business incisiveness?
<Martyn Coles:> No, I would certainly not say that. That higher education and local authorities are getting involved can only be a good thing. They are becoming involved in institutions and academies that might be new, but given the example and model of other academies, things are a good deal more focused than they might otherwise have been. The expertise of people from higher education is excellent. Indeed, the City of London Corporation is in partnership with City University in sponsoring the new Islington academy. It is excellent that City University will have such a level of high input. The links that they can bring in order to raise pupil aspirations will be superb. That is excellent. The fact that local authorities in many areas of the country are getting involved in academies must be a good thing. We can learn both ways.
Q127 <Paul Holmes:> But you are emphasising how bad or indifferent your experience of working with local authority management was, so why would it be a good thing for local authorities to sponsor academies?
<Martyn Coles:> Not wishing to be rude, but perhaps you did not take my point completely. When I was a head in Tower Hamlets, I think that I worked in one of the best authorities in the country. It was outstanding and I had a superb time there. I am talking about governance-not necessarily about local authorities. However, I think that Southwark is a good example of a local authority that had poor standards of education for its young people, but which in the last five or six years has changed dramatically. The local authority has taken over education and has done so extremely well. However, the local authority has also supported the creation of six academies, I think, in Southwark, because it saw that it is a way of raising standards in partnership with the Government.
<Jean Hickman:> My breadth of understanding is that it is industry, business and education-all of those fields. I might have said business and industry, but I include higher education and local authorities. I agree with Martyn on the higher echelons of business and industrial expertise. You might have misunderstood when I said industry, but I actually meant the industry in its totality.
<Martyn Coles:> So many different people and organisations can raise pupil aspirations. Jean and I would agree on that in our own schools. On families-not much mention has been made of parents and parental perception of the academies-I like the idea that parents can see a school in an area where there has not necessarily been a tradition of good education and say, "Actually, this school can do something for my child in a way that has not happened before, which we have not had experience of in our family."
Q128 <Paul Holmes:> I want to raise a point that I was going to mention. We are told that the whole point of academies is that they can innovate in a way that schools within the mainstream system cannot. Can you give examples, from your different experiences, of these innovations that cannot happen in mainstream schools? It intrigued me that you seemed to be saying that one clear example was bringing business people in, although all governing bodies on which I ever served as a teacher governor had people from industry on them. However, now you seem to be saying that such examples can come from other places as well. What shining examples of innovation in academies cannot happen within the mainstream system?
<Jean Hickman:> I will give you one, if I may. The terms and conditions of my staff are very different and innovative. If one works under the state sector terms and conditions, one is talking about 1,265 hours per contract and you are, therefore, committed to a school day. My school day starts at quarter past eight in the morning and works through to quarter past five in the evening. The staff are employed for well over1,265 hours per year. We work 200 days, not 150 days. So working in the academy at Walsall, the terms and conditions for staff are slightly different outside the state sector. What does that enable me to do? It enables me to have longer teaching sessions and the children are in school longer. The number of hours per taught child in the local schools is around 25 or 26 hours a week: mine are in school for 31 hours, up to 35. Consequently, with an innovative approach to the employment sector one is able to put in place innovations to enable students to have a better deal.
<Chairman:> I am being told to turn up the sound a little bit.
<Jean Hickman:> It is me. I will talk louder. My apologies.
<Martyn Coles:> We have a longer school day as well. As an academy, we also have freedom, if we wish, to change the curriculum that we offer. Ironically, the review of the curriculum and the changes coming in over the next two years follow some of the things that some academies have already been doing. However, that is a choice for the academy. We certainly have the choice to be able to do those kinds of things.
We run an internal fast-track scheme in school, which does not necessarily fit national pay and conditions but is an extremely good development opportunity for younger members of staff to take wider school responsibility: it builds their career and it enhances recruitment and academy development. That would be much more difficult to do in a local authority school, because it does not fit the standard pay scales in respect of teachers' pay and conditions. That is just another example that Committee members might find useful.
<Graham Badman:> Can I just add something about pay and conditions? Let us go beyond the start to how it affects the young people. The Marlowe academy replaced a school in Ramsgate. Incidentally, its head would not forgive me if I did not tell you that it now has 39% five A* to Cs, whereas previously it had 3% and 4%. Because of the flexible day, the year 12 pupils have an option to work four days out of five. So if they have part-time jobs, they can retain them. That is quite important for a lot of young people who want a certain amount of money. Why should they not have the same things in life that other kids have? That keeps them in school, sustains them through years 12 and 13 and enables them to keep their part-time jobs, particularly on a Friday and certainly on Saturday.
In another innovation, we put start-up companies on the Marlowe school site. We are currently building pods that will house between 16 and 20 companies. That scheme is jointly backed by a European Union grant and the other school sponsor-Roger de Haan-and Kent county council.
You can think differently about the migration patterns of young people through schooling into further education and employment and use the time more flexibly. So it is not just about how it affects the staff; it affects young people as well.
<Lucy Heller:> I second everything that has been said. I should like to make it clear that, at least from our perspective, academies do not have the monopoly on virtue. We are not claiming that academies are the silver-bullet solution to all problems in education: it is a broadening of the solution spectrum.
I find it difficult to understand some of the opposition to academies. Some say, "It is fine, carry on, there are lots of local authorities doing very good jobs and lots of schools doing excellent, brilliant jobs." Having academies is one way of doing that. Yes, their independence is an important part of that, and I cannot see why anyone would not want to expand the range of solutions to what is clearly a fairly intractable problem in not only this country, but almost every western country.
Q129 <Paul Holmes:> You say that lots of local authorities are doing a very good job, but they have to have academies. They are forced on them by the Government. They have no choice. If they want money from Building Schools for the Future, they must have academies.
<Lucy Heller:> If they have schools that hit the hurdle rate.
<Paul Holmes:> That is one reason-
<Lucy Heller:> There are, in fact, local authorities that have not had academies because all their schools come above the hurdle rate. The hurdle rate obviously changes from time to time, but if we are taking roughly the 30% hurdle rate that had been set, we would all agree that that is not an acceptable level for schools to operate at. That is a defensible decision.
Q130 <Paul Holmes:> I wish to pursue a point that has been made in two of the examples.
<Chairman:> You accept that as an answer.
<Paul Holmes:> Not necessarily.
<Chairman:> But there is a hurdle rate. There are local authorities that do not have anyone below the 30% in respect of A to Cs in GCSE.
<Paul Holmes:> Except that the academy programme has now been expanded to bring in independent schools, which do not exactly serve deprived areas, for example.
<Lucy Heller:> Tower Hamlets-
<Paul Holmes:> As the previous witness said, the academy programme is changing rapidly and moving on.
<Chairman:> I am trying to get you to ask the questions, get the answers and see if you are satisfied.
Q131 <Paul Holmes:> Lots of local authorities would like the opportunity to reform their schools, but have been told that they must take the academy route. In Newcastle, for example, the politicians who took over were elected on a programme of being against academies, and were told categorically by the Government that they would get no money for their reform proposals unless they had academies.
<Lucy Heller:> I do not want to argue about a question of policy. As a parent and consumer of education, given the extent to which local authorities have schools that come below that hurdle rate, it seems to me that it is fair enough to take action after that has been going on for some time-it is not done at the first instance of a school falling below the hurdle rate.
Q132 <Paul Holmes:> We are told that one of the advantages of academies is that they appoint more advanced skills teachers, attract and retain good staff by paying them more and provide performance-based bonuses. We have heard the example of having long school days. I do not know whether the staff are paid the same for working longer or more, but there seems to be a number of incentives at academies that involve spending more money. From where does the extra money come?
<Lucy Heller:> It does not. The answer is that we are working like every other school on standard budgets. We hope that we manage it better. Some of us might claim that our business sponsors give us an advantage in that, but I would not want to push it too far. It is tough. Anyone involved in education knows how tough it is to balance the budgets that we deal with. It means making sacrifices in other areas. I am sure that all of us would have slightly different accounts of how we make the numbers work to push as much money as we can into teaching. It is perhaps one of the advantages of the multiple sponsors-I think that all of us have sponsors who are involved in more than one academy. We must have some economies of scale to drive that money back into teaching, but there is no simple answer to the question.
Q133 <Chairman:> Paul is implying that you get lots more money than regular schools.
<Martyn Coles:> No, we do not. We get just the same as the other schools in Southwark.
Q134 <Paul Holmes:> Are they all specialist schools in Southwark?
<Martyn Coles:> Pretty much so, I think, yes. Indeed, we have two specialisms: business and sport. We only get money for one of them.
Q135 <Paul Holmes:> So you are better at managing the money even though, in general, academies have fewer pupils and therefore have a smaller base on which to operate.
<Martyn Coles:> You may know more about that than me. I do not think that they necessarily have fewer pupils. I manage the budget as best I can. When you look at the age profile of my staff, they might be younger and have not therefore worked so long. They might then not be paid so much and I can then adjust that money to pay some of them more bonuses under the scheme that I mentioned earlier. I manage my budget on a year-to-year basis and try to look forward for three years. I have just the same money as everyone else.
<Jean Hickman:> Yes, I have exactly the same. I do not pay my staff any more for working the extra hours. The terms and conditions are different. The salary scales are the same. They have a performance-related payment once a year if they hit the targets that we agree. Other than that, the situation is much the same. Our financial management is exactly as we would expect it to be from formula funded. My secret is that I have an absolutely superb financial director who is an accountant by training-a business man-who comes in and talks to me all the time about running the business. It has taken me five years to get used to that phrase, because as far as I am concerned it is an educational environment, but he still thinks of it as managing a business. In so doing, he creates a business environment for me to function in. Through that person, there is a quite excellent management of money; it goes a long way.
Q136 <Lynda Waltho:> Out of interest, I want to talk about terms and conditions. I was a National Union of Teachers rep in a former life.
<Jean Hickman:> I have been one too.
<Chairman:> So have I.
Q137 <Lynda Waltho:> One thing that we tried to do was not increase the working day necessarily. Are you happy that your staff are happy with their terms and conditions?
<Jean Hickman:> Indeed; as an NUT representative, likewise, I would say that their days are an awful lot easier. When I worked in the state sector, I would go out of school, probably after a meeting, at about 5.30 pm or 5.45 pm, and would take a whole load of work home with me. Whatever level I was working at, I would go home with three hours' worth of marking to do. I try very hard for that not to be the case. My staff leave school at 5.15 pm if they have managed their time properly-and I have facilitated them so to do. They do not have to go home with three hours' worth of work.
Q138 <Lynda Waltho:> So, you are one of those special principals who allows free time for marking?
<Jean Hickman:> Absolutely. My staff have 80% contact and 20% non-contact. The 20% non-contact is sacrosanct; it is theirs.
<Lynda Waltho:> Excellent.
Q139 <Chairman:> Martyn, do you want to come in on that?
<Martyn Coles:> I wish that I could say the same. We try to preserve as much as possible. I, too, am a former NUT rep. I would say that teachers choose to work in academies. They know the conditions before they come-they are made very clear-and choose to come because they feel it is a better job for them and their career development. They make that choice. There is not much more that one can say about that. They could choose to go to another school in the area that is not an academy.
Q140 <Lynda Waltho:> Do you both pay bonuses?
<Jean Hickman:> We do.
<Lynda Waltho:> Yes, you did mention that.
<Martyn Coles:> We do not.
Q141 <Lynda Waltho:> Is that a philosophical decision or is it that you do not have enough money?
<Martyn Coles:> It is mostly the first and partly the second. I prefer to use the money for the classroom.
Q142 <Lynda Waltho:> Jean-I hope it is not too simplified to say this-you are paying by results?
<Jean Hickman:> Yes.
<Lynda Waltho:> You are.
<Martyn Coles:> We have not had results yet. When we do, the governors may reconsider, but, hitherto, they have decided not to.
Q143 <Lynda Waltho:> Do you recognise unions in your schools and have negotiations?
<Jean Hickman:> Yes.
<Martyn Coles:> Yes, of course.
<Lynda Waltho:> I just wanted that on the record.
Q144 <Chairman:> Graham, do you?
<Graham Badman:> Yes, indeed, I meet with them regularly. May I come back to funding? There are transition grants that apply to academies, which taper. It would be disingenuous not to say that they have more money to begin with, on set-up. I think that what Paul Holmes may be getting at is an important issue: as the academies movement develops, it is important that when an academy takes its proportional share out of the local authority, it takes just its proportional share. The mistake of the grant-maintained movement that caused such divisions within our schooling system was that they took more than their share. As the number of academies grows, it will be very important that the formula take-out from what would have been section 52 statements for local authorities is absolutely precise. Otherwise, primary schools and other secondary schools will suffer as a consequence. I do not think that there is any intention to do that, but the situation has to be watched.
Q145 <Chairman:> Grammar schools in Kent do not get a better proportion than other schools?
<Graham Badman:> No, they get the same share. The only switch in the formula in Kent, in terms of age-weighted pupil units, is towards areas of disadvantage.
<Chairman:> Okay. Lynda, have you finished?
Q146 <Lynda Waltho:> May I go right back to the beginning and ask Graham something, just to satisfy my curiosity? You said that Ramsgate was the lowest school ranked. Was that because of the selective system in Kent? Was it the school where everybody went who could not get into anywhere else?
<Graham Badman:> It was certainly a school of last resort for many youngsters. However, although there are grammar schools in Thanet, there is a choice of other schools as well, including church and wide-ability schools, so I do not think it was a selective system. What the academies do is to challenge the concept of a mixed economy of schools and make it work more effectively. I think that the problem of the old Ramsgate school was that it was an awful building with awful teaching, badly led, with a totally dispirited community that did not believe that schooling could do anything for them or their youngsters. One of the great joys of going there now is that-do go and look at it, we won the British Stirling award for it-it is big and it is yellow and it strikes you right in the face. It is a statement, saying to the community: "We really do want the best for you." The response has been in accordance with that, but again, I would stress as the heads have done that it is part of the co-ordinated admissions scheme and the Kent admissions scheme, The academy plays a full part in the local partnership and will be full members of the local children's trust. In that way, you maintain the integrity of an area. But it was just an awful, awful school.
<Chairman:> I am the person who has to make sure that we get all the questions in, so I am moving now to Fiona.
Q147 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Lucy, I think you answered very clearly when you said that we should give the academies a chance to be a solution, a different way of tackling the problems that we have. It seems that it would be interesting to understand how academies themselves are different. Some of that is beginning to come out, but if people are saying that there is not a single solution and we have different characters and ways of doing things that we think fit, I would be interested to know, for example, how I would know that I was in an arts school. Tell me what I will notice when I get through the door. What are the special things? What do you think that you offer that is part of the solution?
<Lucy Heller:> I want to say in advance that lots of the things that we think are special to us actually apply in different measure across what any good school would do, but given that, there are probably four key characteristics. The first thing that you would notice and that is different from most schools is that we believe in small units. One of the things that came out of the research that we did was that there is now a wealth of evidence that size matters, at least in the inner city. If you are off in leafy suburbs the size of your school has less impact, but in the inner cities being in small units can make a huge difference to performance.
We have a schools within schools model that is breaking down standard size secondaries into smaller units. The experience of most parents, for instance, is that in primary schools, whatever the problems, most parents feel more or less happy with the primary school; they know it and children feel that they are part of a small unit. We have all had the experience, probably, of sending children off from the relative cosiness of primary school into a huge and impersonal secondary. One of the things that we want to do is to break that down. We have groupings, so that within a sixth, FE and secondary you would see two key stage 3 schools, which have their own leaders, and children would work and play within those groups. It is trying to ensure that they really have a group identity.
The reason for doing that is first, to ensure that there is absolute consistency on behaviour. Behaviour policy is overwhelmingly important for two reasons: one is that it is the absolute requirement in order to drive any kind of academic achievement. If you are in small groups where you can develop and impose a completely consistent code of behaviour, that is easier than doing it across 100 staff and 1,200 children. It is also easier to drive the culture of aspiration. Part of what you are doing is trying to develop in children a real sense that when they get to 16, or, we hope, 18, they have real choices and that those are based not just on having the qualifications to do whatever they want, but a sense of entitlement. When you are dealing with children who may come from families not just with no history of going to university, but no history of paid employment, it is hugely important to give them a sense that that is their birthright. Size helps deliver that consistency of behaviour and helps drive a culture of motivation and aspiration.
The third thing is that we have high aspirations academically-high absolute as well as relative aspirations. One of the depressing things is precisely the LSE-type research which says that it does not make a difference; what comes in goes out. I have talked to governors at my son's school who say: "Well, there's been lots of research, you can't really make a difference at school, can you?" Well, we profoundly believe that we can make that difference. It is the role of the teachers and the adults in the institution to unlock that capability. One way to do so is to focus on the basics: depth before breadth. The key tools for this are literacy and numeracy, and the majority of children, who are in the schools that we are considering taking over as transition schools, normally come in well below where they should be-two or more years below. A substantial portion of children in many of those schools come at 11 with no discernible reading age at all, so the first order of the day is to ensure that you have addressed that problem and that they have those basic tools.
The final piece for us would be sustainability. The example of the best of the charter schools in the US, for those who have seen them, has been inspirational. They are doing extraordinary things in the inner city to drive achievement-in areas where, with the class and race apartheid, if that is not too strong a word, the deprivation is extraordinary compared with anything in this country. You saw in many such schools that they depended on an almost evangelical fervour. They are often schools starting from scratch, small, and with young people who are prepared to hand over their lives to it as a mission.
Well, we are all trying to do something that is replicable and scalable, so there is a huge emphasis on sustainability, on building the school day that Jean has, with teachers being given 20% of their time to do the non-contact work, such as marking, and on ensuring that you create jobs that real people with families and the rest of their lives to attend to can do. We put a lot of effort into the training and development of staff, and again, rather like Jean, we have a longer than average school year, which is meant to provide additional time for such training and development.
That is, in a slightly lengthy nutshell, what characterises an arts school, but again, I do not want to claim too much. Other than schools within schools, which is different, I expect that many of those things would receive nods from all three colleagues here.
Q148 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Jean, is there anything that you would say is different about, or specific to, your institution?
<Jean Hickman:> I have six points. If you were to visit us, which I hope you will, you would come into school, and our school is for our children. Everybody is equal and valued, and there are no labels. If you look at our catchment, our environment, I am sure you will find that we serve a huge deprivation area. No child comes to us who has a label on their head. Teaching and learning is our focus and that is it. Everything is there for the child to learn and for the teachers to teach, and you would find our school is calm and the students are well behaved despite their difficulties from their homes, because they come into an environment where their values are our values. They join in with them, want them and they leave behind the horrors of their lives.
We involve their parents very much, and the underachievement of many outside the school gates is something that we wish them to leave behind, beyond the school gates, so that when they come in to us, it is a completely different world of work that they are able to experience. That is mums, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers-it does not matter who-plus child. When underachievement is eradicated and achievement is launched, we celebrate it greatly, because every child is able to achieve something, and their families, too. Consequently, when you start on that achievement ladder, the whole family start on it, and hopefully something will happen to the horrible deprivation that we all, collectively, face with those families.
Q149 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Thank you. Martyn?
<Martyn Coles:> Very similar. My school is in Bermondsey-Peckham, and I am sure that Members are aware that what is happening out there is not pleasant, with gang warfare and so on. It is very interesting that when HMI was in school, it commented on how well the different groupings-not necessarily ethnic-got on. I said, "Come and stand with me at the end of school," and then, everybody went off in their own groupings, because out there it is a completely different world.
It is interesting that Lucy mentioned the fervour of charter schools in America, because they talk a lot about mission. I am not sure whether I want to use that word, but we are trying to ensure that we can break the circle of that long-time, inner-city deprivation in Bermondsey and Peckham. It is not only because of the recent gang warfare, but things that have happened previously-all of Bermondsey's history has been similar.
One thing I say to parents is that our sponsors own three schools: City of London School, City of London School for Boys and City of London Freemen's School, where people pay many thousands of pounds to send their children. If we can raise the aspirations of the students who come to our school to a level where they feel that, at the age of 18, they have an equal chance to pupils from those schools for which people pay tens and tens of thousands of pounds, and are buying privilege, I will feel that we have done a good job, which is our aim. Within that we really want, as hon. Members will know-I must be careful here, as a number of you have been in to school as well-to get students involved in and taking control of their education, and for their voice to be heard in the school. It is their school, not mine or the staff's.
Q150 <Fiona Mactaggart:> That is hard, is it not, in a selective area? How can an academy operate in the context of selection? Having let me ask you that, I can tell that the Chairman will stop me in a minute, so I will also ask you to answer my question about governance, which you said that you wanted to answer earlier. I am getting two questions in for one.
<Graham Badman:> Let me add to the list. I have endorsed everything that has been said. I would add the great importance of the arts as a way of expression, because for so many of the young people at these schools-all the Kent academies are in our most deprived areas-there is a linguistic gap between those who teach them and the language that they have and hold. The arts are very important in the celebration of what they do.
Clearly, if there is a fledgling academy in an area where there are some high-performing grammar schools, one of the challenges is how to get your students to feel the same sense of value as those at the other schools. I think that part of it is about copying them. Give them the sense of ritual; give them the systems and organisation to their lives that some of their predecessor schools did not have, as they were too chaotic. They replicated the chaotic existence of the families. It is not for me to comment about selection, as I have to make the system work. I prefer to call it a mixed economy of schools, where all of them-
Q151 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Are there children who have passed the 11-plus who go to your non-selective schools?
<Graham Badman:> Not everyone has to take it. There is a choice whether to take it. It is very interesting that, in one of the partner schools to the Marlowe Academy, no child last year chose to enter for it; no parent chose to enter them.
My broader answer would be that we have to seek collaboration between schools. I was intrigued by evidence from a previous sitting, in which people asked what the evidence for collaboration was. I could give you lots of evidence of collaboration in terms of teachers shared to bail schools out of difficulty, of collaboration particularly post-14, and of a new consortium working on the creation of diplomas. That also includes the grammar schools. I am neither advocating nor otherwise a selective system. I am saying that I do not think that being an academy makes it any more difficult for a school to work within a selective process. It gives some of those deprived communities an edge; a sense of difference; a sense of purpose.
In the Folkestone Academy, some of those youngsters go home to third-generation unemployed households. You challenge the aspirations. You actually have to say to them, "You can do this." It is a Norman Foster building, which is magnificent. There is a house structure within it. There are vocational opportunities the like of which they never had before.
Q152 <Chairman:> What about governors?
<Graham Badman:> I think that I have somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 school governors in Kent. If you were going to design a system, you would not start from there. One of the problems that we face, and why schools such as Ramsgate's predecessor school came into being, is the parochialism of school governors.
Part of the remit for the Taylor report of 1977, which was long overdue in terms of reform, was how you deal with unnecessary collaboration between schools. It is extraordinary when we now try to seek neighbourhood solutions for schools working together. Certainly, much of my energy goes into getting grammar schools, high schools, Catholic schools and so on, to work together with their primary schools to manage children's services, including the psychologists, welfare officers and the family liaison officers, to say what the focus of the locality is, of which the academy can play a part. I have talked a lot about Ramsgate. I could equally talk about Folkestone. The issue is how do you solve the community problems for Folkestone collectively, and where does the existing schooling system, with a given for grammar schools as far as I am concerned, play its part in community renewal and getting the best access. We are trying different things. The head of the Marsh Academy is also head of Folkestone School for Girls. She runs both schools. The Folkestone School for Girls is fantastic for modern languages. The Marsh is not very good, but it has a vocational centre, focusing on robotics with access to electrical engineering. The girls' grammar school has access to that as well. Collaboration can work and bridge the selective schisms that occur.
Q153 <Fiona Mactaggart:> One of the things that I was very struck by on the issue of governance was how valuable some of you find your business or economic-experienced governors. Such experience is something that most schools do not have. How can we use that lesson for other schools? Has anyone got a quick answer to that?
<Chairman:> One person can answer that. Who wants to take it?
<Lucy Heller:> I disagree with you. I think that school governance is an issue, and your point was very well taken. It is about the limits of the stakeholder model of representation that seems to be problematic. I do not think that there is an easy answer. One of the reasons that you get the level of people involved in academies is that those people are held directly accountable, whether that is the Corporation of London or the Mercers and Thomas Telford. That makes a difference to who you can get in. It is tough to get high-level people to be part of a large and unwieldy group of people giving their time to a more amorphous body.
<Chairman:> I may sound like a hard Chairman, but we have 18 minutes to ask some very important questions.
Q154 <Mr. Chaytor:> May I pursue the question of collaboration? First, let me clarify the question of funding for academies. The National Audit Office report suggested that academies typically cost about £24 million to build, which is about £3 million more than a non-academy secondary school, and that the transitional funding is £1.5 million for the first four years. May I ask about the specialist schools funding? Is the specialist schools funding in addition to the transitional funding?
<Martyn Coles:> Yes, it is.
Q155 <Mr. Chaytor:> So, the specialist schools funding is worth about £500,000 over two years?
<Martyn Coles:> It is £129 a pupil.
Q156 <Mr. Chaytor:> The typical academy would have an addition to the extra capital cost, which may have something to do with the glossiness of the building-
<Lucy Heller:> The capital. It is difficult to make true comparisons.
Q157 <Mr. Chaytor:> Okay. All I am saying is that the National Audit Office report said that it was £24 million.
<Lucy Heller:> But they are now the same because they are all coming under BSF.
Q158 <Mr. Chaytor:> I am interested in the revenue because it means that if the specialist schools funding is in addition to the transitional funding in the first four years, the typical academy would have an additional £2 million of revenue funding. Is that correct?
<Martyn Coles:> Well, that would depend on the size of the school. When I only had 180 pupils, I did not get quite so much money.
<Mr. Chaytor:> Sixth form entry schools-
<Chairman:> Let him answer the question.
<Martyn Coles:> If I had a full school, I would get more. On the other hand, it strikes me as being somewhat unfair for those schools that are specialist not to have the funding.
Q159 <Mr. Chaytor:> Sure, I just want to clarify the scale of the additional funding in the first four years.
<Martyn Coles:> It is £129 per student per year. Of course, the transition funding tails off to zero. I do not have any more now.
Q160 <Mr. Chaytor:> Of course. But in the first four years, it is significant.
<Martyn Coles:> But it was under £100,000 last year.
<Mr. Chaytor:> Can I go into the reason I want to raise this?
<Chairman:> You asked the question. Lucy wants to answer it.
<Lucy Heller:> On transition funding, all you are doing is giving the 200-the number has expanded now-arguably most disadvantaged schools the chance to transform themselves.
Q161 <Mr. Chaytor:> Of course, but earlier, it was said that there was no difference in the revenue funding between academies and non-academies.
<Lucy Heller:> Studies state that there is not.
<Mr. Chaytor:> I raise this issue-
<Chairman:> Let me make the rules clear. You ask a question, then I ask someone to answer the question. Then you ask another question. This rapid fire does not give the witnesses a chance.
<Mr. Chaytor:> Can I ask one other question?
<Chairman:> Let Lucy finish the point she was making.
<Lucy Heller:> I entirely accept that we could all agree that in those transitional couple of years, academies get extra funding. We would all argue that they need it in order to make that transformation.
<Chairman:> Now Graham wants to answer.
<Graham Badman:> Some academies get the income from endowment funds. The original academies had endowments that were attached to them and some of mine have just that. There is an additional income stream from amounts that vary between £1 million and £2, £3 or £4 million, depending on how much they invest.
Q162 <Mr. Chaytor:> Can I come to my next question? I am sorry to be so persistent. Jean, in your earlier answers, you talked repeatedly about the state sector, and defined your school against schools in the state sector. How do you deal with the increasing requirement from the Government and local authorities to get this collaboration not only between schools, but between schools, social services, health and the criminal justice system, when you are so adamant about defining yourself outside the state sector-
<Jean Hickman:> No, I did not-
<Mr. Chaytor:> And yet, have a considerable financial advantage that comes entirely from the taxpayer?
<Jean Hickman:> The definition of my school is as an independent state-funded school. I am not outside the state sector, it is a state school.
Q163 <Mr. Chaytor:> So you are in the state sector? Earlier you described other schools as being in the state sector-
<Jean Hickman:> I am in the state sector. I am an independent state-funded school.
Q164 <Mr. Chaytor:> So you are within the state sector?
<Jean Hickman:> I am both. I am in an independent school within the state sector.
Q165 <Mr. Chaytor:> But what does independent mean if you are within the state sector?
<Jean Hickman:> That is for your good selves to decide. You decided on calling us independent state-funded schools.
Q166 <Mr. Chaytor:> Can I get to the heart of the question which is in the context of the establishment of children's trusts and the development of children's services generally? That was not there in 2002 when the first academies were established and when autonomy and independence were the absolute heart of the academy project. How do today's academies now deal with the emerging children's services agenda?
<Jean Hickman:> I was in one of the 2002 schools. I opened in 2003 but I was in post in 2002. The first thing I did was to become part of the secondary head's forum in Walsall. We have governors who transferred across from their predecessor school and we were very insistent that our school was not going to stand alone as an island outside of the state schools, as you wish to call them. Consequently, there are now 18 secondary schools in Walsall, and I am very much part of that group. I collaborate on all fronts. I am no different from any other school except that I am an independent state-maintained school, not an LA state-maintained school.
With respect to your point about funding, may we please be very cautious about identifying what the transfer costs are? A capital build is a capital build. We cannot then expect a school to function without laboratory test tubes or without books. That transitional funding is actually resource funding. It is not additional funding to the academy. Consequently, I will absolutely not agree that we have had any more money than any other school in Walsall since we opened on 1 September 2003. The transitional funding was setting up moneys for books, test tubes and chemicals and so on. A school cannot function without such things.
Q167 <Mr. Chaytor:> No, I am sure, but do new build non-academies get the same level of transitional funding?
<Jean Hickman:> Certainly in the world in which I work they did. When I put up new laboratories in Cheshire we had additional funding to put things into those laboratories, so yes they do.
Q168 <Mr. Chaytor:> Is it the same level as the funding-
<Jean Hickman:> I am sorry, I am way out of date on such things.
<Chairman:> Anyone else want to come in on that?
<Mr. Chaytor:> May I ask Graham about the issue of-
<Chairman:> Sometimes I watch to see whether people want to answer the original question. Does anyone want to come in on the first question?
<Martyn Coles:> I agree with Jean. I see no reason why my school or academy cannot be fully involved in the wider issues of the Children's Plan and local Children's Trust. We are involved in discussions with social services and the local authority as well, and linking in with those just as much as any other school. We are a state school.
Q169 <Mr. Chaytor:> Can I ask Graham about this from his perspective-the local authority perspective? Is there is a difficulty about the autonomy of academies in respect of the children's services agenda?
<Graham Badman:> I do not think that there is in the Kent context. Kent is a sponsor, and I am a governor of three, so they are kept within that family in that sense. You probed me about Kent. On the development of locality-based children's services, in September, the children's trust will have been in being for 18 months and we will have 23 local boards managing everything from the commissioning of tiers 1 and 2 child and adolescent mental health services support through to welfare speech therapy. All will go into that locality structure. That money passes through the local authority and down through the children's trust. It will be multi-agency. Some will come out of health; it does not all come from us necessarily.
Where an academy takes a disproportionate share, we expect it to pay for the services. If there are services above and beyond that which they took out of the local authority, or for which they have not contracted back, we would expect it to contract back. So far, they have all indicated that that would wish to do exactly that.
There will be variations between local authorities. In my case, I do not think that their role is a problem. However, I would also argue, if you expect academies, on their own, to change communities in perpetuity, that they will not. A wrap-around structure of children's services will offer different engagement to families and make a difference alongside what academies do, which is why I said in my opening comments that you cannot separate what Kent is doing on academies-I am speaking specifically about Kent-from our anti-poverty strategy, which includes the setting up of credit unions, and the way in which we are developing children's services on a locality model.
Q170 <Chairman:> Lucy, do you want to come in on that?
<Lucy Heller:> No.
Q171 <Mr. Chaytor:> One of the examples of collaboration between schools that you mentioned earlier was the transferral and sharing of teachers. I switch this question to Jean or Martyn. Does that happen in your areas? Is there any exchange of teachers? Does the issue of the different conditions of services between academies and non-academies create difficulties?
<Jean Hickman:> We do not exchange teachers, but we have combined professional development opportunities and work with children on a variety of aspects. However, we do not exchange teachers. I do not quite know what you mean by that. However, we work on an awful lot of fronts with teachers from colleague schools.
<Martyn Coles:> Similarly, we do not exchange teachers, although that will certainly be coming in within the next two years with the 14 to 19 agenda. We will also be working with local schools. We are talking about that at the moment. On your point about pay and conditions, I pay pretty much according to national pay and conditions. That would not be an issue, if it happened.
Q172 <Mr. Chaytor:> Absolutely finally, regardless of the pay and conditions issue, do you detect any effect on recruitment within the local authority area, because of the existence of an academy?
<Martyn Coles:> Students or teachers?
Q173 <Mr. Chaytor:> Teachers. Are the best teachers applying to academies? How does it impact on the local teacher labour market?
<Martyn Coles:> I do not think that it has had an impact, but quite a few local schools have now become academies. It has not had an impact, as far as I am aware.
<Jean Hickman:> I think that there has probably been an increase in the quality of teachers applying to the borough of Walsall as a result not just of the academy but of changes in Walsall over the past six years, which the academies helped to catalyse.
<Chairman:> Andy, a quick one on this point, otherwise you will have to wait.
<Mr. Slaughter:> I thought we were on four.
<Chairman:> We are, but you are not down for it.
Q174 <Mr. Slaughter:> It is a bit unfair on you, because I have one of your academies in my constituency-Burlington Danes. I will have a conversation after the meeting with you about it, except on this one point. I do not think that it is fitting into the LEA network of schools very well. I have hopes for it. It has traditionally been a good school, it is a good site, the building is excellent. Obviously, it lost its head teacher and so on. I have never had any communication at all from ARK. I am in and out of all the other schools all the time. I only get into Burlington Danes when I force myself upon them. I get the impression that you are looking after it as part of a little ARK network of schools, not as part of the LEA network. The LEA is not doing its job, because I think that it has shifted the problem over to you, so it is not trying to integrate you, and I do not feel that you are trying to integrate yourselves. There are knock-on effects on other schools nearby that have a much more deprived intake.
<Lucy Heller:> I would quarrel on the deprived intake-
Q175 <Mr. Slaughter:> Well, Phoenix High School, which is next to you, has two and a half times the number of free school meals that you have.
<Lucy Heller:> We have a problem with the under-reporting of free school meals. It is absolutely clear that, from an ARK perspective, we see ourselves as a community school in all but name. We are clear that Burlington Danes, like any other ARK school, is part of the family of local schools and Hammersmith schools. It is equally fair to say-this is the only caveat to add to the discussion about collaboration-that the first order of the day for any transition school is to focus on getting stability in the school. It is fair to say that Burlington Danes' first focus has been on getting things right in the school.
We would be delighted to meet you. We are meeting the local authority later this month. So we are very happy to have those discussions. Certainly, that has been our experience in relation to our commitment, and that would be the view of Southwark, Westminster, Lambeth and the other boroughs that we are working with.
<Chairman:> Sharon, you have been very patient.
Q176 <Mrs. Hodgson:> I have a question about SEN, about which I am particularly interested. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that although the data show that academies tend to have a higher proportion than average of children with SEN and children from disadvantaged backgrounds, there is a worrying trend towards these proportions falling and it says that this is an issue.
The comparison of the 2007 performance data statistics for Walsall and the Southwark academies is interesting. For instance, the Walsall SEN statistics show a move towards the worrying trend of reducing the number of SEN pupils, with 10% fewer SEN students than average on its roll, compared with the City of London academy, which shows the more usual trend of having an above-average number of children with SEN: 26% of its pupils have SEN, which is more than 6% above the 19.5% average
Can you comment on these statistics and say whether you agree with PricewaterhouseCoopers' evaluation? I should particularly like you, Jean, to comment on whether having 10% fewer than average SEN students shows a comprehensive intake.
<Chairman:> Let's go for it, then. However, all answers must be sharp and quick at this time of night, I am afraid.
<Martyn Coles:> I completely agree with your figures. It is representative of the area, which is the key issue. We talked earlier about us becoming a comprehensive school. Indeed, when I talk to colleagues-head teachers do talk about taking what we might call our fair share of pupils with special needs-I find that those pupils are distributed well across the borough and we take a full part in that. If I were to say that 48 families had nominated the academy for next year, 48 out of 180 would be a disproportionate amount. However, the local authority is extremely good at distributing, in co-operation with parents and it has worked well. Certainly, in the early years we had even higher numbers-quite a significant number-but it has steadied out now and I am happy with the way that it works. It is about 10% of the intake each year.
<Jean Hickman:> Ours is representative of Walsall schools. You need to look at Walsall schools, not at academies. Look at the other 16 comprehensive schools in Walsall and you will find that we take the same proportion of children into the academy as they do.
Q177 <Mrs. Hodgson:> So Walsall does not meet the national average.
<Jean Hickman:> It does not, because Walsall does not believe in statementing.
Q178 <Mrs. Hodgson:> Right. But your figures also take in school action and school action plus, which is not about statemented children. The 19.5% figure that I was quoting includes school action and school action plus as well as statemented children. So Walsall does not believe in statementing and does not even believe in identifying children who have special educational needs.
<Jean Hickman:> Correct.
<Lucy Heller:> Ours would be much like Martyn's. Our figures tend to be consistent with local averages. We would want to play our part in working with the local authority and seeing that we have the right sort of number and that we do a good job for all children.
<Graham Badman:> When you have a strong partnership between schools, authorities should not be afraid to use their powers of direction. We can direct admissions where there are special educational needs or looked-after children, and I do. That applies to academies as well.
Q179 <Paul Holmes:> Surely you cannot direct admissions to academies. You can ask them to take the children; you cannot direct them.
<Graham Badman:> Under the new code, they would find it very hard to refuse the admission of a looked-after child, for example.
Q180 <Paul Holmes:> None the less, even under the new code, you cannot direct academies. You can ask but not direct, whereas you can direct mainstream schools.
<Graham Badman:> Well, please do not tell them in that case.
Q181 <Mrs. Hodgson:> With your permission, Chairman, I have a similar question with regard to exclusions. I do not have any statistics to hand to compare figures on exclusions other than what PricewaterhouseCoopers has found and what I know from my own experience and my own borough, which is that a greater proportion of children are excluded from academies. The evidence is here; that is a matter of fact. Also, when a child is excluded from a school, another school in the local authority area will often take them, but that may not be the case with academies. Often that is because academies are full. I am finding in my borough that the one academy often totally refuses to play ball and will not take children excluded from another school, although when the academy excludes children, other schools are expected to take them in, so there is now starting to be a worrying disparity among the schools.
<Chairman:> We are pressed for time and I know colleagues are getting a little restless, but I must keep a quorum here if we are to finish the last couple of questions, so can you respond briefly to Sharon's question?
<Martyn Coles:> I have taken pupils permanently excluded from other schools.
<Jean Hickman:> We are part of the Walsall managed move/transfer policy and we do likewise.
<Lucy Heller:> The same would be true for our schools.
<Graham Badman:> We do not have that problem. Unless there is a managed move process, the academies will not do the job they are meant to do within a locality, so we encourage them all and we have not had any difficulty in getting our academies to respond to a notion of managed moves where there are exclusions.
<Chairman:> Last tail gunner, I think we used to call them-Annette Brooke.
Q182 <Annette Brooke:> I have been reflecting on the relative importance of people in the system and the structures of the system. Let me give just one example. The fact that local authorities manage the admissions policies of schools gives me a lot of confidence, but that is not necessarily common to all academies, so I would like to leave this meeting convinced that we could have a structure that meant that academies were genuinely serving the public good. I am assuming that all of yours are, so can you tell me which changes we should have, apart from in the area of admissions policy, to get rid of all the niggly questions round the edges-the Saturday morning test and so on? That worries me. I visited an academy that did that for the banding. What else is there that would ensure that these dynamic people were serving the public good?
<Chairman:> Let us start with Graham this time, rather than others leading all the time.
<Graham Badman:> I will go back to the issue of governance. The heads have made great play of the fact that they have strategic, directive, on-the-ball governors. That is great. It is not necessarily universal. I think we have too many governors and they are too parochial. Within a structure where you are getting school collaboration, you would take out a lot of the parochialism and niggles between schools by having a governance model that enabled schools to have their own governors but also a wider set of governance arrangements, for a town or a neighbourhood, where there was shared ownership of the problems of all the schools within that. Every head, I think, has to take responsibility for all the children, not just those within the purview of their school.
<Lucy Heller:> I would just refer to time. The academies movement, perhaps like education in general, has suffered from an overload of initiatives and changes. We have already seen, in the relatively limited time that academies have had to show their stuff, that things seem to be moving in the right direction. Generally, given time, people in local communities who have been, in some cases, violently opposed to them have come to change their mind once they have seen them in operation. I would say let it be. I would not make changes to anything. I do not see any instant-
Q183 <Annette Brooke:> You would not clip the wings of the freedom at all?
<Lucy Heller:> No, I would not. The freedoms are important, but I do not think that they are overwhelming. I do not see any signs that people are misusing them in any way. The change in the curriculum requirement said that academies must follow the national curriculum in maths, science, ICT and English. I thought that was unnecessary simply because I am not aware of any academy that has used the freedoms in a way that was at all damaging. It was a response to a question that had not really been asked. I am in favour of leaving things as they are and letting them go. Have a look at the next PricewaterhouseCoopers report when it comes.
Q184 <Annette Brooke:> There are obviously issues in relation to the admissions policies of some academies, although not those here I am sure.
<Jean Hickman:> At the time, yes. It is five years since we began and there are certainly great differences now from the provision on the same site for the same community in north Walsall. There also has to be an increased clarity on what we are all about, which is probably why we are here today. The clarity needs to be by definition. There are an awful lot of words attached to every initiative; academies have endless words attached to them. Those words need to be clearly defined so we all know what we mean when we talk about an independent state-maintained school or a transitional budget. What do those words definitely mean? At the moment, the clarity seems to be that by me defining a specific word, I have a different understanding of it than someone else. The definitions are not clear and clarity in time is what we need.
<Martyn Coles:> Indeed. I am almost turning full circle in saying that academies on the whole have most definitely brought better standards to areas or institutions that have not previously had them-I do not care to comment on the whole country because I do not have experience of that. I agree with you: full and clearly transparent admissions policies should be the case for all state schools.
<Annette Brooke:> Thank you. Is that a good note to end on?
<Chairman:> A good note to end on. We wish that clearer and more understandable admissions policies were true right across the piece, not just in academies.
This has been an excellent session and I hope that you have realised how generous the Chairman has been in giving everyone plenty of questions. Thank you very much for the time you have given us. It has been a really good session and we have learned a lot.