The changing face of schools

Kettering Buccleuch Academy
Kettering Buccleuch Academy

Almost three-quarters of secondary schools across Northamptonshire have converted to academies since the expansion of the academy programme in 2010.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that of the county’s 310 schools, 29 primary schools (11 per cent of the total) and 27 secondary schools (70 per cent of the total) had decided to switch to academy status in recent years.

That figure represents almost a fifth of the county’s schools – but does not include a further 70 schools which have announced that they intend to switch to academy status in the future.

Once those schools become academies, it will mean that about 42 per cent of Northamptonshire Schools will have converted.

Academy schools differ from mainstream schools in that they are funded directly from central Government, rather than from local education authorities.

They are allowed to set their own terms and conditions for staff and teachers, which has attracted some criticism from teaching unions.

Northamptonshire’s number of academies is well above the national average, which currently sits at 12 per cent, and slightly above the East Midlands average of 17 per cent – and the figures contrast starkly with those of Derbyshire, where just four per cent of schools have switched to academy status, and Leicestershire, where 31 per cent have crossed over.

In some parts of the UK academies have been criticised for manipulating admissions to select and exclude certain pupils, according to the Academies Commission.

However, Dawn Cotter, principal of the Kettering Buccleuch Academy, said its admission policy was no different to other schools in Northamptonshire.

She added: “We operate a transparent, fair and comprehensive admissions policy.

“ Our policy for admissions to our primary and secondary phases is in line with that of Northamptonshire County Council and children of all abilities from across the local area are invited to apply.

“Our improved academic performance is reflected in our growing student body and we are quickly becoming the first-choice of school for parents in Kettering.”