Is Havering’s Academy System an Expensive Failure?

There are eighteen secondary schools in Havering, none of which are administered by the council. They are grouped into six categories of governance, costing huge amounts of public money. Apart from OFSTED inspections, they are broadly unaccountable. Only when the annual examination season reports in August are they reported as Havering schools.* Then the borough takes responsibility when they excel or fail. Why aren’t the trusts which administer them held directly accountable?

Let us take the case of the Loxford School Trust. This Trust is responsible for six secondary schools** in Barking and Dagenham, Essex, Havering, Redbridge and Southend. Perhaps the question should be: how well did the Loxford School Trust do? Their flagship school, Loxford in Redbridge, was deemed below average in 2018.*** Warren School in Barking and Dagenham was average,**** Tabor school in Essex was below average.***** Two Havering schools, Abbs Cross and Gaynes, are respectively below average and average.^ Finally we have Cecil Jones school in Southend. Well this school closed in March 2019. I wonder why?

Loxford School Trust is meant to be an improvement on the, now extinct, Havering LEA. It clearly isn’t. They’re grimly mediocre. Their pinnacle is average. And the educational reputation of Havering has been out-sourced into their hands. Loxford Trust isn’t a bargain basement option. Their CEO is paid £255,000 pa for underwhelming outcomes.^^

Let us consider Empower Learning Academy Trust. They are an entrepreneurial off-shoot of Hall Mead school. They run Bower Park, Brittons Academy and Hall Mead. The leadership of Hall Mead was dazzled by their success in making their school OFSTED rated outstanding in 2013. In truth this is a brilliant result but has it induced hubris? The business plan is: we transplant Hall Mead to Bower Park and Brittons Academy and then they too will be outstanding. So how has it worked out?

In terms of examination results Hall Mead is now average and it appears that they have destroyed value in the period since 2013. Bower Park is below average and Brittons Academy well below average. Achievement in the academy system is illusionary.

British politics is wedded to quick fix solutions. Tony Blair’s government, 1997-2007, prioritised education but his timescale wasn’t decades, it was yesterday. The pre-eminence of private education in Britain meant that was the favoured model. The school system has, allegedly, benefited from shedding the ‘shackles’ of local government. This PR ‘solution’ has been embraced by Michael Gove who claimed, without evidence, Free Schools were even better. His Free School system is an expensive failure,^^^ playing politics with children’s futures.^^^^ The result is administrative chaos. There is confusion as to where accountability lies. The principal achievement of the academy system has been to create a new breed of fat cats at the expense of children’s educational opportunity.

Addendum: Havering schools in 2018
Basic statistics tell us everything can’t be above average. In Havering there are 18 secondary schools. The optimum outcome would be 6:6:6 shared between above average, average and below average. The actuality is 5:6:7, which is well within the tolerances of acceptability. (Quick fix politicians want every school to be above average.) Breaking up Havering’s LEA has smashed financial restraint for the senior managements of academy trusts. The Harris Trust leads the way with £500,000 pa for their CEO. Even the small Partnership Learning Trust (Hornchurch High School) pays their CEO £220,000.^^^^ These figures dwarf Council salaries.

* For 2018 see https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary&basedon=Overall%20performance&show=All%20pupils
** Plus one primary school in Redbridge.
*** https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=317&la-name=redbridge&geographic=la&for=16to18
**** https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=317&la-name=redbridge&geographic=la&for=16to18
***** https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=881&la-name=essex&geographic=la&for=secondary&page=2
^ https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary
^^ See http://www.loxfordschooltrust.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/126527-Loxford-School-Trust-1718-FinStat.pdf p58 By way of comparison Havering’s Chief Executive is paid £170,000
^^^ https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary For Hall Mead in 2013 see https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/education/gcse-exam-results/gcses-hall-mead-school-pupils-celebrate-exceptional-results-1-2348681
^^^^ See https://schoolsweek.co.uk/revealed-the-hidden-cost-of-free-schools/
^^^^^In Havering there are also:
(a) Academy Converters Sacred Heart, Campion School, Marshalls Park, Redden Court and Royal Liberty
(b) Foundation schools Coopers Company and Coborn, and Sanders
(c) Various free standing academy’s St Edwards, Emerson Park and Francis Bardsley
(d) Draper’s Multi-Academy Trust Draper’s School. Once again there is an untested belief in transferable skills, from Queen Mary’s College, London. Draper’s school is rated well below average.
(e) Harris Academy Harris school, Rainham, rated above average. Harris CEO is on £500,000.
^* http://www.partnershiplearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Accounts-for-website-v2.pdf p34