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Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment was made of the effectiveness of the City Technology College programme when developing Government policy on academies; and if he will make a statement. (285428)

There was no formal assessment of City Technology Colleges used in the development of the Academies programme. However, the contribution of external sponsors, the use of greater freedoms and innovation in learning and ICT were all characteristics of CTCs that influenced the development of the Academies programme.

All but three of the original CTCs have converted to Academy status, and a number have sponsored new Academy projects.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will assess the effect of policies on (a) diplomas and (b) academies on (i) local democratic accountability of the education system and (ii) levels of educational inequality. (285431)

We are currently still in the first year of diploma teaching so it is too early to assess its impact on local accountability. Each diploma line of learning will be evaluated for the first three years after roll out and we will analyse the findings of the evaluation to ensure the implementation is having a positive impact on the education system.

One of the main aims of diplomas is to widen educational participation among young people. Data on the types of learners taking up diploma places will be available for analysis later this year, and this will help us to identify and address any areas of inequality.

With regards to academies and local accountability, all academies must have a local authority governor and a parent governor. Governing bodies are bound by law to act in the best interest of the academy, its pupils and the local community. They must set out their proposals for working with other schools and the wider community in their annual development plan. All academies are inspected by Ofsted on the same basis as other schools, and their results are published along with all maintained schools.

A major goal of the academies programme is to tackle educational inequality and there are a number of measures that guarantee this is achieved. To ensure a fair admissions process, academies, like maintained schools, are required to follow the School Admissions Code. The independent PricewaterhouseCoopers evaluation said that there was no evidence that academies have a negative impact on neighbouring schools in terms of pupil profile and therefore not created any inequalities.

The School Census shows that the proportion of pupils with special education needs (with and without statements) in academies is 29.5 per cent.—compared to an average of 19.2 per cent. for all schools. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals in academies is 33.8 per cent.—compared to an average of 14.4 per cent. for maintained secondary schools. Between 2007 and 2008 the rate of improvement for pupils gaining 5 A*-C grades (including English and maths) that attend academies and are eligible for free school meals has been double the national improvement rate, 5.3 percentage points compared to 2.4 percentage points.