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This independent commission is chaired by Christine Gilbert, former Chief Inspector at Ofsted and provided in partnership between the RSA and the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning. Christine is joined by two other commissioners: Brett Wigdortz (CEO of Teach First) and Professor Chris Husbands (Director of the Institute of Education).

The Context

The academisation of schools is a central plank of the Coalition’s flagship policy agenda to increase diversity and autonomy in state schooling. In 2010, Education Secretary Michael Gove opened up the academies programme so that all “successful” state-maintained schools could apply for academy status as part of an “education revolution” . Since this time there has been a rapid expansion in the number of academies, including sponsored academies, converter academies and ‘free schools’. As of July 2012, there are 1,957 academies open with many more schools in the process of applying to become academies.

The speed at which academisation has progressed indicates support from many headteachers and governing bodies, suggesting that, in addition to funding incentives, the notion of greater autonomy appeals to many schools. Yet despite notable successes in reinvigorating struggling schools, aspects of academies policy remain controversial including the effectiveness of diversification and market solutions as a method of improving education systems; the impact on inter-school collaboration; management of local school markets; and the impact on pupil outcomes. Such debates will continue as more schools opt for academy status, and as existing sponsors and organisations increase the number of schools within their federations and chains, and develop their modes of governance. Within this unprecedentedly fast-moving terrain much of the debate has been retrospective. As yet nobody has explored what the unique features of an entirely academised system might be, and what impact these may have on educational outcomes. The Commission sets out to do this. The Commission will collect evidence and expert views from a range of stakeholders, examining the implications of mass academisation from a school improvement perspective.

The Commission Remit

The Commission will focus on issues of accountability, governance, due diligence, and outcomes for pupils. It will highlight emerging trends, risks and related questions, concentrating on public interest. It will not rehearse debates about the decision to develop the academies programme, but will focus on the consequences of this programme in terms of outcomes for children and young people and for the education system as a whole. With an emphasis on foresight, it will identify the benefits/opportunities afforded by mass academisation as well as difficulties and challenges.  It will consider how to maximise the benefits of academisation as well as how to mitigate risks. Particular attention will be given to the key issues of accountability and educational outcomes.

Expected Outcomes of the Commission

In late 2012, the Commissioners will produce a major report which will be widely disseminated and is expected to have a significant influence on policy and practice.

The Call for Evidence

The Commission is seeking the views of a range of stakeholders. Our call for written evidence is open to all individuals and organisations. We hope that you will submit evidence and help the Commissioners develop practical and compelling recommendations for the future of the English education system.

Commission Questions

The Commissioners are asking five questions that they feel need be considered within this enquiry. These are based on key issues, concerns and challenges emerging from a review of current research, experience on the ground, recent policy shifts as well as those on the horizon. These align with the Commission’s central focus on the implications of complete or near total academisation, and its emphasis on foresight:

1)    What are the levers and barriers to school improvement within a totally academised system? How can achievement be secured for all pupils within such a system?

2)    Research suggests that academies are not yet using their full freedoms. Why is this? And what are the likely implications when academies start to use these to their full extent?

3)    What are the implications of an academised system on admissions?

4)    What is the impact of diversification and mass academisation on existing academies and schools?

5)    What are the key issues concerning governance, accountability and due diligence within an academised system?

How to submit evidence

To submit evidence, please complete the Evidence Submission Form via this website.

Alternatively you may email written evidence (under the key questions) to acadcomm@pearson.com

Your submission does not have to respond to all five areas of enquiry.

No individual will be named in the Commissioners’ report without permission.

The deadline for submissions was midday Monday 9th July.

Twitter @acadcomm #acadcomm

For a selection of tweets discussing the Academies Commission report, please click here.

To view the twitter conversation at the report launch event at the RSA, please click here.

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