In 2014 the most interesting (and worrying for many) new development might be the opening of many new academies targeting students at 14+ and 16+. There are now 30 University Technical Colleges, 38 Studio Schools and 14 16-19 (Sixth Form) Free Schools. These schools, strongly supported by the Government, provide new marketing challenges for existing schools. Retaining students at 14+ suddenly becomes an issue for many schools and while the 16+ market is already competitive in many areas, new Sixth Form providers are creating interesting new options for students.
Read on for the latest facts about academies, free schools and the 14+ and 16+ newcomers (correct as of September 2014).
- The total number of academies stands at 4,167 (source DfE, September 2014).
- Academy chains continue to grow in size with 10 chains now running over 30 schools each (see table below).
- Two of the largest academy chains slowed down their rate of growth following intervention by the Government - the largest chain (AET) was asked to stop taking on more schools in 2013 by the Department of Education. and E-ACT actually reduced the number of schools being sponsored following Government action.
- New sponsors include a number of Catholic and Church of England Dioceses and this has led to an increase in the number of primary academies to 2,150. The biggest chain formed as a result of this is the Plymouth Catholic and Anglican Schools Trust (Plymouth CAST). The REAch2 chain also only contains primary schools.
- Regional trusts are growing strongly - the Northern School Partnership Trust Academies, Southern Kemnal Academy Trust and London-based ARK are all in the top ten.
- There are still many single school academy trusts and small chains. With hundreds of sponsors now running academies and a limited number of positive educational words to describe trusts we do hope there isn't any confusion between for example the 'Bright Futures Educational Trust' and the 'Brighter Futures Academy Trust'...
2. Free Schools:
- The number of free schools increased by 61 to 251 in 2014, although the future pipeline seems smaller than in previous years with only 77 new free schools approved for opening in 2015 and beyond. The prize for highest profile free school this year must go to the Michaela Community School set up by Headmistress Katherine Birbalsingh with a strong and traditional approach to discipline.
- 38 New Free Schools were approved in 2014. For a full list see here.
3. Studio Schools and UTCs - the challenge at 14+
- There are now 30 University Technical Colleges (UTC) across England with 25 more set to open in the next two years (although Hackney UTC will close at the end of this year). Support for UTCs comes from both the Government and the Opposition, with potential growth to 100 UTCs by 2020 supported by Labour's Lord Adonis.
- There are also 38 Studio Schools open, with 9 set to open in the near future.
- Both types of school focus on recruiting students into Y10 and Y12 and offer a specialist curriculum with strong industry links. The schools are typically aiming for a size of around 600 students.
- The concept of 14-19 schools is new to most of the UK, although of course very common in the USA and other countries. The challenge for existing schools near UTCs or Studio Schools is that many students moving into Y10 will find the idea of a specialist curriculum in a new, and probably more relaxed, environment attractive compared to the challenges of GCSEs in their existing schools. The vocational training and links with employers will also be attractive to parents and students.
- What can you do if a UTC or Studio School is opening near you? The best response is to take a marketing approach to retaining your current Y9 students - find out what they want to do in Key Stage 4, innovate in response (could you match some of the attractions of the new schools?) and communicate the benefits of staying to students and parents.
- What if you are an UTC or Studio School? From the perspective of a teacher of Y9 students, a good starting point would be compare the excitement of an industry-specific and flexible training programme which meets their career dreams with the perceived grind of a two-year GCSE course!
4. Sixth Form Free Schools - the challenge at 16+
- In addition to the number of new Sixth Forms in existing schools, schools with Sixth Forms need to be aware of the 14 new 16-19 Free Schools (full list below). These offer specialist teaching, often focused on more able students, and many have compelling partnerships with universities or private schools. This article gives some suggestions to strike back!
The 14 Sixth Form Free Schools
Bolton Wanderers Free School, Bolton
Chapeltown Academy, Sheffield
Connell Sixth Form College, Manchester
DV8 Academy (yes this is the name!), Waltham Forest
East London Academy of Music, Newham
Exeter Mathematics School, Devon
Harris Westminster Sixth Form, Westminster
Kimberley 16-19 College, Bedford
King's College London Specialist Maths School, Lambeth
London Academy of Excellence, Newham
Salisbury Sixth Form College, Wiltshire
Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, Norfolk
STEM Sixth Form Academy, Islington
The Maltings College, Calderdale