Like many places, there is a headlong rush to convert secondary schools into academies in Leicestershire. But the release from LEA control and the increased freedom and budgets are just the first step in a change process that will re-shape how these schools are run.
The move to become an Academy has been driven by the desire for more freedom over their curriculum, over revenue streams, over a whole host of issues. What they hope is that the move will lead to better education for their children. But once they have achieved their new status and once the new processes are in place, what next?
Implementing a change such as this has far-reaching implications, some of which we cannot foresee. It is so much more than where the money comes from, it is the chance to create a new identity. I know that many people in Education are very wary of these changes, but they do present opportunities to develop learning that meets the needs of the community, to specialise in a particular area, to create new experiences for the children and to become beacons in the local area.
They can chose to be whatever they wish to be, community based, arts based, sports based, inclusive, ecological, high achieving. But this is where the real hard work takes place, creating the new culture and new identity that the children, staff and governors can relate to.
In “consultancy speak”, we can talk about the transition period (turning from a school into an Academy) and the transformation period (making the new change work for you). Making that new change work for you is NOT about making the processes more efficient … it is NOT about driving down the cost of stationery, it is about developing a DREAM. It is about working in collaboration with Governors, parents, staff, local people and the children to say, “This is the kind of school we want to be” and making sure it happens.
In 2 or 3 years time, it is likely that schools will be very different organisations to those we have seen. My view is that the most successful academies will be those that have dreamt big and put in place plans to make it happen.