By Vivienne Russell | 5 April 2012
Former Ofsted chief Christine Gilbert is to lead a review of the mass ‘academisation’ of schools.She will chair a ‘speed commission’ convened by the Royal Society of the Arts and the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning. Brett Wigdortz, chief executive of the charity Teach First, and Professor Chris Husbands, director of the Institute for Education, will make up the other members of the panel.
The number of academies in England has increased from 200 to 1,635 since the coalition government took office in 2010. Gilbert said this represented a ‘major structural change’ to the school system, adding that little had been done to explore the implications of this.
She said: ‘We intend the work of the commission to be a constructive contribution to the debate on academy policy and practice, in particular to the impact of academisation on school improvement and on young people’s learning and achievement.’
The commission will take a quick and focused look at academies and attempt to answer two questions: the implications of complete academisation for school improvement and pupil attainment; and how improvement and attainment can be best secured within an academised system.
It will also focus on how academy schools are held accountable and how they can be encouraged to improve educational outcomes given their autonomous status.
The RSA plans to set up a series of ‘speed commissions’. Director of programmes Adam Lent said: ‘Because commissions can take years to report, they often focus only on the most overarching questions and even then sometimes miss their moment. So RSA speed commissions will get leading experts to take an intensive look at the more immediate issues confronting politicians with the aim of reporting in no more than nine months.
‘There are no more pressing concerns in government now than how to make the academies programme really work for kids and parents, so this is perfect topic for our first speed commission.’