Over 80% of schools in England feel pressurised to convert to academy status, new research has found.

A study of over 100 schools in England by HCSS Education, a leading education finance specialist, found that a staggering 82% of schools feel that there is pressure for them to convert to academy status.

However, when teachers and school leaders were asked whether they would actually want their school to convert to an academy, over half of schools (59%) said no.

When asked what their main concern was about the conversion process, 65% stated that staff may be nervous or wary of the change.

Other concerns included losing the support of the local authority (47%), and the school being unsettled during the transition phase (41%). 29% of schools were concerned about the leadership team’s capabilities and 24% had worries about producing a viable business plan.

41% of schools feel that the main reason their school would convert is because they would be forced to become an academy.

However, 82% of schools do approve of the key principles of an academy: that giving heads, teachers and governors greater freedom over their budget can help improve the quality of the education they provide.  59% of school staff would want to convert because it would give them more independence and freedom than a maintained school.

The survey was conducted as part of HCSS Education’s Academy Futures report, which takes an insightful look into how the education landscape is changing and the impact the rise of academies is having on both teachers and parents. It explores the barriers to conversion, the challenges schools may face when they first convert, and how these issues can be addressed.

Howard Jackson, CEO of HCSS Education, said: “After David Cameron set out his vision for the schooling system, stating that every maintained school in England should become an academy, we wanted to find out what the education sector and parents really thought about this, so we decided to conduct our own research to look into the rise of academies and the impact they are having.

“The results of the survey were really interesting and it seems that the pressure from Government is having a significant effect on academisation and is a contributing factor for many conversions.

“However, while the benefits
of greater autonomy are appealing to help improve educational standards, there are still a number of concerns that are perhaps holding schools back from change. Losing the support of the local authority is clearly daunting for schools but how the changes will affect staff and pupils is the number one concern for most.

“Academisation doesn’t come without its challenges. But what is important is that both academies and maintained schools keep their focus on raising educational standards. While greater autonomy and changes to school structures may be a solution, fundamentally it is what is happening in the classroom on a day-to-day basis that is important and will help them to flourish.

“After reading our report, we anticipate that many schools will have more clarity when it comes to understanding the key changes involved in conversion. We hope that the report will also help reassure schools that despite the major changes involved in conversion, there is support and guidance available to help newly-converted academies to find their feet and for individuals to be successful in their transformed roles.”

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