Schools lined up for conversion far outweigh number of sponsors, says NAO

Plans to convert the nation’s schools into academies have been scuppered due to a lack of sponsors, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Its research found that the Department for Education (DfE) had authorised nearly 7,000 schools for conversion as of January 2018, at a cost of £745 million since 2010-11.

However, the NAO says it has taken longer than intended to convert a number of underperforming schools. These tend to be small, remote schools that are less easy to integrate into multi-academy trusts.

It argues that there is substantial variation across the country in the relative proportions of maintained schools and academies and in the availability and capacity of sponsors to support schools most in need.

There are currently 1,101 approved sponsors of academies across the UK, but around 65 per cent of the 21,538 state-funded schools have yet to be converted.

“This complicated position means that it is incumbent on the Department to clarify its policy and make sure that the school system is coherent with all of its parts working effectively together. This will be crucial to secure value for money and provide children with access to good end-to-end schooling,” says the report.

A DfE spokeswoman said the DfE has introduced more regular monitoring and reporting of the conversion process and is investing more than £30m in academy trusts in “areas facing the greatest challenges across England to boost their ability to improve other schools”.

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