What are academies?

When it comes to choosing the right school for your child, it’s best to know what all your options are first. So what is an academy, and what are the benefits for you and your schoolchild?

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Choosing which school is best for your schoolchild is a tricky decision all mums and dads must face. Nowadays, not only are there specific schools to choose from, but there are many different types of schools too. One of your options is an academy.

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What exactly is an academy?

An academy is a state-funded school that is not maintained by the local authority but provides pupils with a free education.

In 2010, parliament passed a law called the Academies Act 2010 for all academies to follow. Academies are a key part in regenerating education in disadvantaged communities, providing a first-class education at no cost to parents. 

The Government’s vision for creating the Academies Act 2010 is “to create a world-class school system in which every parent has access to a good school and all pupils achieve high standards. The central aims are to raise standards for all children, while narrowing the gap between the attainment of the most and least advantaged,” as stated on www.education.gov.uk.

What’s the difference between an academy and a Free School?

The word ‘academy’ only applies to schools already established in the UK that have decided to become independent from the government. Any additional schools set up under the Academies Act 2010 are called Free Schools.

The Free Schools programme gives parents and teachers the chance to start up their own school if they are unhappy with state schools in a particular area. However Free Schools are still overseen by local authorities, unlike academies where the local authorities have no say.

“The Government believes that teachers and headteachers, not politicians and bureaucrats, should control schools and have more power over how they are run. That’s why we are spreading academy freedoms. This will give heads more power to tackle disruptive children, to protect and reward teachers better, and to give children the specialist teaching they need,” said Michael Gove, Secretary of State of Education, reports the Department of Education.

An academy’s funding will go directly to it from the government, but the money for Free Schools goes via the local authority who decides where the money is spent.

Will the curriculum be the same at an academy?

Essentially, no. Academies don’t have to follow the set National Curriculum that schools have to. However, they must provide pupils with a broad and balanced education. Since 2007, academies must teach English, maths and science to their pupils.

Some academies specialise in a certain subject, for example languages. If your chosen academy is like this, then it means that subject will definitely be taught to all the students. Academies also have the power to select 10% of their students solely based on their ability of that special subject.

Academies are also able to change the lengths of terms and school days, depending on their size and location.

Where can you find your local academy?

Today, there are over 800 academies open around the UK and of all the secondary schools in the country, 20% now have academy status.

To find your local academy, visit the Department of Education’s website. It has an easy-to-use search bar or you can view the complete list of every UK academy and then Google them! 

How do you apply for a place at an academy?

Academies are required to follow the law and guidance on admissions as if they were maintained schools.

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However, each academy will have a different entry test, which will depend on whether it has a special subject or not. Visit your chosen school(s) website to see its admissions criteria.

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