Over 2700 attend The Academies Show in London
May 17th, 2012
Over 2700 visitors from schools and the education sector learn about the benefits and challenges of converting to academy status at The Academies Show.
Senior experts from the Department for Education join accomplished academy leaders and education suppliers to discuss academy status and offer advice to schools from across the country.
The Academies Show, which took place on 16 May 2012 at London’s Olympia, attracted over 2700 visitors from schools considering conversion to academy status, those already converting as well as established academies.
This inaugural event, sponsored by Zurich Municipal and supported by the Department for Education, the Education Funding Agency, The Schools Network, FASNA, the IAA, NAACE, the National Education Trust, NASBM, the NGA and TES, the Show’s official Media Partner, saw experts tackle the common misconceptions about academy status, examine key considerations for converting, and highlight the improved prospects of thousands of children attending schools which took advantage of academy freedoms.
Keynote speaker, Schools Commissioner for England, Dr Elizabeth Sidwell CBE, addressed a packed conference and drew from her own experience within schools as well as highlighting the gap in achievement between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their contemporaries. She expressed the view of many of the day’s speakers saying conversion the academy status was “not just about the structural change, it’s about the people, the collaboration, the freedom.”
“More than fifty per cent of secondary schools are now Academies or are in the process of converting,” she said later. “Many primary schools are also following in their footsteps.
“I was delighted to be speaking at The Academies Show to explain more about the benefits that Academy freedoms can bring to all schools.”
In his speech to the conference, Dominic Herrington, Director of the Academies Delivery Group at the Department for Education noted that the drive towards academies was in part a result of the advantages the added autonomy afforded schools. However, he added: “Autonomy is not an end in itself. It’s about how to drive up standards in your school.”
Herrington also noted that the benefits of academy status seemed to be ongoing, if not accumulative: “The longer a school is an academy the more the beneficial effects of that academy grows,” he said.
The idea that gaining academy status was far more meaningful than simply a status change was supported by David Wootton, Academies Executive, United Learning Trust and Chair of the Independent Academies Association. “Successful academies need to be transformational,” he said.
“Academies can extend opportunities for enrichment and extra curricula activities. The freedom they gain is the freedom to think innovatively – to rewrite the script.”
Wootton also noted that academies had moved away from the early model where there seemed to be little interaction between the schools. More recently umbrella structures and groups of academies were proving highly effective in sharing best practice and driving up standards together.
“The inaugural Academies Show was a great event and it was really good to see the huge amount of interest in the main show presentations and seminars,” said Paul Tombs, Head of Education at Zurich Municipal – the Show’s main sponsor.
“It was wonderful to speak to so many headteachers, business managers, bursars, chairs and governors. We had some terrific conversations with people that were just curious about converting to an academy, right in the middle of conversion, just converted and also some long standing academies.
“It was also great to dispel some myths about insurance being a barrier to school activities,” Tombs continued. “Just because some activities are more risky it certainly doesn’t mean that they should be stopped!”
Outside the main conference, delegates had the chance to attend focused seminars dedicated to every aspect of establishing and running an effective academy. There was also plenty of opportunity to network with colleagues and learn from those who had already made the move to academy status. The exhibition of suppliers to schools was also well attended and offered delegates the chance to be ‘hands on’ with some of the latest school equipment as well as discussing their own issues and challenges with some of the best solution providers.
During the afternoon conference session Charlie Taylor, Expert Advisor on Behaviour at the Department for Education put forward the benefits that the Academies programme could bring to the provision of Pupil Referral Units. Observing that the care provided by Units was not always as good as it should be, he believes schools now had the opportunity to work together and collaborate to create better resources under the academy structure: “If there isn’t good enough local provision you can get together with other schools to develop your own,” he said.
While the move towards academy status is undoubtedly having an impact on the role of Local Authorities, Jon Coles, Group Chief Executive, United Learning Trust and United Church Schools Trust – one of the largest single sponsors of academies in the UK, suggested one type of involvement from the LA could be in holding Academies to account.
The conference was brought to a rousing conclusion by Martin Latham, Headteacher of Robinson Primary School, Gloucester, itself an academy. Latham told the audience that it was ‘easy’ to become an academy thanks to the level of support now available. But he also said that now was the ideal time to make a jump and make a real difference to the provision of education in the country: You are the people who can make a difference here,” he told the audience, “and this is a once in a lifetime chance for you and me to make a difference.”
Marcin Piechowski, Group Marketing Manager at GovNet Communication, the Show’s organiser, commented: “As of 1 May 2012 there are 1807 academies open in England* – it is now the standard model in secondary education, and the number of primaries converting is growing fast. We were delighted to welcome so many Heads, Governors, Bursars and other leaders from schools considering converting, as well as those who have already started the process, and up-and-running academies, here at The Academies Show”.
He added: “We are grateful to all who visited and contributed to this event – the attendance exceeded our expectations, and there were many useful lessons to be learned, and fascinating success stories mentioned in the discussions throughout the day.”
“With so many education leaders looking to learn about converting and managing successful Academies, we are certain that our next free-to-attend event, The Academies Show Birmingham which will take place at the NEC on 28 November, will be equally popular.”
The Academies Show 2012 took place on 16 May 2012 at Olympia, London
For more information, please visit: www.academiesshow.co.uk
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The Academies Show Birmingham – 28 November 2012 – NEC Birmingham
For more information, please visit: www.academiesshowbirmingham.co.uk
Exhibiting and sponsorship enquiries:
Please call Sharon Azam on 0161 211 3057 or email Sharon.Azam@govnet.co.uk
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*As stated on the Department for Education website.