On 12 July 2016, the Sutton Trust held an Academies summit in partnership with the Education Policy Institute and Kings College London. The summit brought together key players from the government and education sector, together with other policy makers and academics to evaluate and reflect on the academies programme. Presentations made at the summit can be found below.
There was an opportunity to learn about the latest research on academies as well as hearing from practitioners. In the morning, participants were presented with the findings of the Education Policy Institute’s report School Performance in multi-academy trusts and local authorities – 2015 from Jon Andrews, the Sutton Trust’s latest report: Chain Effects 2016, from Professors Becky Francis and Merryn Hutchings, and from Dr Olmo Silva on the ‘Impact of autonomous schools’.
In the afternoon, Lucy Heller from Ark Schools provided reflections on the academy programme, and Dominic Herrington provided a summary of academy oversight. Keynote speaker, Lord Nash, provided an overview of academies and confirmed the government’s commitment to a strong programme of accountability and continuous audit to ensure high standards.
The event finished with discussion from a panel of eminent speakers including Lord Nash, Jonathan Clifton from IPPR, Professors Becky Francis and Stephen Machin and Sir Daniel Moynihan from Harris Federation.
Themes from the speakers’ presentations emerged as the importance of strong leadership and equipping leaders with the right skills, variability in the success of academy chains, and the importance of sharing best practice across academies.
There was a broad conclusion from speakers and panelists that, whilst academy schools have had a positive effect in many cases, especially sponsored academies during the early phase of the programme and those post-2010 schools rated “outstanding” that have since converted, academy school status is by no means a panacea for improvement.
The consensus recommendation for the new Conservative government was that ministers should halt the emphasis on converting all schools to academies and instead focus on improving standards and capacity so that underperforming chains meet the standards of the best performers. All broadly agreed that teacher recruitment and retention, and improving the quality of teaching, should be the priority for the government.