The first academies opened in 2002. Initially only failing schools were encouraged to 'academise' but, under the coalition government, this process was sped up considerably. Schools which were labelled as 'underperforming' were forced to become 'sponsored' academies within academy chains, while schools with good or outstanding ratings were encouraged to academise independently. Over 60% of secondary schools are now academies. More primaries are being converted all the time. 

There’s no evidence that academies improve standards. In fact, there’s evidence that academies improve more slowly than state run schools and that council-run schools do better than academies.

Read more about academisation and what we can do about it here.


AET sponsors around 65 Academies across the UK, although this number changes rapidly - AET doubled its cohort from 30 to 76 between 2011 and 2012, and has recently been forced to abandon a number of schools due to funding and management issues. However it remains the largest Academy Trust in the country. In 2014 it was forced to back down on a plan to outsource all its non-teaching roles. Also, AET’s current CEO Julian Drinkall received an annual salary of £240,000 in 2015-16, despite having no classroom experience.


The Harris Federation was set up by Lord Harris of Peckham, a major Tory donor and one of the richest men in the country. Their CEO Dan Moynihan is the highest paid academies leader, receiving a contraversial £420k a year. The Harris Federation currently runs 41 academies in and around London. They have been criticised for their high expulsion rates, high turnover of teaching staff, and unreasonable use of public money.

In 2014, the Harris Westminster Sixth Form free school was set up at a cost of £45m, at a time when there was a crisis of places for students in the capital, and funding for state schools was squeezed. 



WCAT was created in 2013 and is responsible for 21 academies across the Yorkshire and Humber region. 

Scandals and poor Ofsted ratings have meant that the Trust decided in September 2017 to give away all of its academies. The National Education Union have launched a petition to bring the academies back into local authority control and for funding to be made available for this to happen.


Bright Tribe Trust was one of five “top performing academy sponsors”, to receive an undisclosed share of £5m to take on struggling non-academy schools in 2015. It was founded by venture capitalist Mike Dwan, who has ambitions to expand it to run over 200 schools. Concerns have been raised about Dwan's interests in or control of other companies, some of which Bright Tribes has contracted out to provide services such as cleaning and building maintenance, IT support and website design for the school. An EFA report published in November 2016 found that the Government had received “allegations concerning non-compliance” with the rules on the trust’s contracts with companies and on its interactions with firms connected to trustees as far back as July 2015, before a decision was made to award the trust a share of the £5 million. 

Dwan maintains that neither he nor his companies make any profit from the services they provide to his academies, and the Bright Tribe website makes a point of showing that Dwan is not technically an employee of Bright Tribe Academy Trust. 


Kings Science Academy (now known as Dixons Kings Academy) was one of the first free schools to open, in 2011. The school and its headteacher, Sajid Hussain Raza, were praised personally by then Prime Minister David Cameron, and the school was one of Education Secretary Michael Gove's flagship free schools. 

However, a bad Ofsted report, and then a 5 year saga of financial investigations which culminated in fraud charges for the headteacher and four other staff members.

The school was also involved in a controversy involving Alan Lewis, a former Conservative Party vice-chairman, who leased the land the school is built on for nearly £6m, and was named as chair of governors, which he later denied. 

The school has been taken over by Dixons, another academy chain which runs a number of other schools in Yorkshire. 

Perry Beeches Academy Trust was in the centre of one of the more high profile academy scandals. The Trust's 'super-head' Liam Nolan paid himself a double salary by funnelling money through a private company. Nolan and the whole governing body resigned, and the Trust racked up debts totalling around £2m, which the Department for Education may have to cover. 

The government sent in an emergency governing body which has improved the school's Ofsted rating, and has now decided to disband the trust, handing the schools to other Trusts. 

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