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. In 2 or 3 years time, it is likely that schools will be very different organisations to those we have seen. The move to academy status will free schools up from LEA control, but with that freedom comes consequences.

In addition to ensuring high standards of education for his or her pupils, to managing a large body of staff, to being answerable to Governors and parents, head teachers will also now be running medium sized businesses.  The head teacher will be working to identify new revenue streams, to increase investment into the school, to manage existing investors or donors, worrying about the bottom line, competing in ever more fiercely for pupils, staff, resources. In effect, they will be business people.

This shift has been slowly happening for some time as central government implements new ideas around finance and autonomy. It is just that, whereas, in the past, there has been the odd academy in a field of schools, in places like Leicestershire, there will be a field of academies.   This “commercialisation” of the education sector has already had  a profound effect on colleges of Further Education and Universities and it will start to affect schools very soon.

It has an impact on all of your stakeholders, Governors now have new responsibilities and pressures, parents will have greater freedom of choice, staff will start to look at renumeration,

So my question is whether the senior team within schools are being given the skills and tools to manage this change and handle the new stresses of being commercial, or is there a danger that your team and your stakeholders will all start pulling in different directions. Or maybe the question to start out with is “What sort of academy do you want to be?” Asking yourself that question could be the first step along the path to ensuring all stakeholders pull in the same direction during the difficult transformation.

The transition to Academy is just the first step. I believe the smart Academies will be those that want to transform themselves into something unique and exciting. Now THAT is a fun challenge for a consultant like me.