Coastal Academies: Changing School Culture in Disadvantaged Coastal Regions in England

Ovenden-Hope, Tanya and Passy, Rowena (2015) Coastal Academies: Changing School Culture in Disadvantaged Coastal Regions in England. [Report]

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The increase in the number and type of academies, together with the development of academy chains, is arguably the most significant recent development in educational policy in England. The programme’s origins lie in the City Technology Colleges (CTCs), introduced from 1987 as a response to concerns that secondary education was failing in its task to provide a trained workforce. Unlike other state-maintained schools, CTCs were independent of local authority (LA) supervision, were owned by not-for-profit bodies which were expected to contribute substantial sums towards costs, and had a contractual agreement with the government to deliver education. This funding structure was:… a significant movement away from local authority control of schools,with more emphasis placed on autonomy, thus representing a key pointof departure from previous policies (West and Bailey, 2013, p.141). The idea of CTCs proved difficult to implement, however, and few sponsors were attracted to the programme. But by 2000 the then Labour government had returned to the idea of CTCs in the form of city academies, this time to tackle persistent underperformance in the most challenging urban secondary school settings (Chapman, 2013). Autonomy from local authorities was seen in this case as providing the freedom to generate the kind of entrepreneurial leadership that was more usually associated with private sector business, and that this would lead to substantial improvement in educational standards in those areas (Woods et al, 2007). Subsequently, the Coalition government has expanded the programme as a solution to raising educational standards in primary and secondary schools across the system, with the result that the Academies Commission describes four types of academy currently in existence:  Sponsored  Converter  Enforced sponsor  Free schools (Pearson/RSA, 2013). Rising from a total of 203 academies in 2010, there are now 2,109 secondary academies, and 2,569 primary academies (DfE, 2015). Academies can operate as a stand-alone school (or single academy trust) or become part of an academy chain of under the control of a Strategic Management Executive (or multiple academy trust); in November 2012 there were 312 academy chains, and 39 per cent of academies belonged to a chain (Pearson/RSA, 2013, p.17). Despite the increase in numbers, academies remain highly controversial. For those on the right of the political spectrum, academies are seen as a means to increase choice within the education system by promoting innovation and injecting new freedoms, energy and ideas (Chapman, 2013), while for those on the left, academies are regarded as a form of privatisation of the education service that will lead to greater social segregation (Machin and Vernoit, 2011). Other issues relate to potential conflicts of interest within academy trusts, trusts that are getting into financial difficulties (Greany and Scott, 2014) and the debate on Ofsted’s potential role in inspecting the management of academy chains in the same way as it inspects local authorities (e.g. BBC news, January 2015). In addition, and despite some ‘impressive results’ in turning round the examination performance of some academies in particularly challenging circumstances (Chapman, 2013, p.336), the overall impact of academies has been difficult to assess (e.g. DfE, 2012; Machin and Venoit, 2011), partly because of frequent changes to the programme during its existence. These controversies make research into the challenges that academies face and the way that their leaders respond particularly important; as a central plank of government policy, it is critical that we understand the leadership and management of these independent, autonomous schools. This is particularly the case for coastal academies, which have a range of issues similar to those of inner-city schools, but have been relatively neglected in terms of policy strategy and research. We define ‘coastal academies’ as first phase academies (state secondary schools converted to academy status due to poor student performance) located in seaside towns/cities (coastal regions) in England. There are signs, however, that the Coalition government began to recognise the extent of poverty in coastal regions: Many seaside towns and villages have suffered decades of economic decline. Many young people, for example, have moved away from coastal areas due to a lack of job opportunities. We need to invest in coastal towns to help their economies grow and reduce unemployment and deprivation (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012). Recently Ofsted (Ofsted, 2013; see also Weale, 2014) have also identified a link between student performance and ‘deprived coastal towns’, with a realisation that these areas have ‘felt little impact from national initiatives designed to drive up the standards for the poorest children’ (Ofsted, 2013). Our project aims to highlight the educational challenges faced by academies in socio-economically deprived coastal regions and thereby contribute to filling the research gap in this area.

Item Type: Report
Divisions: ?? UniversityCollegePlymouthMarkJohn ??
Depositing User: Ms Alice Primmer
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2017 14:13
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2021 17:17

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