An Overview of Academies And Free Schools

Shortly after the coalition government’s election to power in May 2010, they announced plans to introduce greater freedoms into the educational system for headmasters, teachers, parents and even businesses to use their expertise to improve the range of educational opportunities available to our children. With the passing of the Academies Act in July 2010 these plans became a reality and in the autumn of 2011 the first of the coalition’s new academies came into full operation. So it is perhaps a good time to take a brief look at what these new schools are.

Academies

The core features of an academy that define it as such are that it is a) publicly funded, b) free entry and c) independent.

The schools will continue to be publicly funded by central government to the same level per child as traditional state schools, but via the Department for Education and its Young People’s Learning Agency rather than local authorities. This means that they are still answerable to central government, however, that aside they have a high degree of autonomy as they sit outside of local authority control and do not need to follow the national curriculum. Academies can therefore decide not only how and what they teach but also when their term times are, what their operating times are, how much they pay staff and how the school is structured. These freedoms are essentially characteristic of traditional fee paying independent schools but the public funding removes the barriers to the features, providing free entry to all. Despite the autonomy they are still however subject to Ofsted inspections as a consequence of being publicity financed.

Academy status can and has been sought at any level of the school system from primary to secondary with some schools providing a unified approach right though these levels, whilst others fit into the existing frameworks in their areas with feeder and reciprocal schools much as a traditional state school.

Free Schools

A free school comes under the academy umbrella, however, rather than describing an existing school which converts into an academy, the term free schools is applied to new schools which are set up by any interested party, whether it be teachers, parents, charities or businesses, in a given area to specifically meet a particular demand for the school children in that area.

Again free schools are publicly funded by central government yet sit outside of local authority and therefore have the freedom to operate outside of the national curriculum. However, they do differ from academies in that they cannot, at any stage, be selective in their intake and they are allowed to employ individuals who do not posses recognised teaching qualifications to carry out their teaching.

Making the Switch

Any school can apply to convert to be an academy but only schools rated as at least ‘Good with elements of Outstanding’ by Ofsted can do so independently. Other schools looking to use the conversion to improve their fortunes will need to enter into a partnership with a high achieving school when applying so that they can benefit from their advice during the conversion.

To become a free school, any interested parties will need to apply to the Department of Education through their New Schools Network who will work with them throughout the process.

The introduction of academies and free schools has provided a whole new raft of opportunities and options to those in the education system and who have ideas outside of the existing constraints of that system so no doubt many schools will be interested in finding out more about how to become an academy.

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ELIG, JISC, and the Higher Education Academy – University of Europe, Who’s Making it Happen?

The current economic climate, and the subsequent rise in adult education, e-Learning, and the accessibility of being able to take an online degree is driving the technological advancement of, and investment in, computer-based distance learning. Because of this, many are speculating that very soon an open content University of Europe might be the next significant step for higher education. So, aside from the institutions that are expressing interest in the scheme, what other organisations are exploring the future of boundary-less e-Learning.

European Learning Industry Group. The ELIG was established in 2002 with the aim to explore e-Learning and to make Europe an ‘economic and social force on the global stage’. Today the organisation is endorsing the idea that open education will transform education to really meet the needs of the 21st Century. ELIG invites other organizations within the industry to become members to form a cohesive, all-inclusive group on an international level – and to push the education sector towards innovation and openness in Europe.

Joint Information Systems Committee. The JISC is a UK body that supports innovation and research in ICT to build knowledge, promote learning and research, and to become a more comprehensive medium for teaching. The JISC was established in 1993 under influence from the Secretary of State in order to promote and benefit the overall development of the higher education sector. Subsequently, the JISC funds three services: Advisory – to help institutions choose the best product or approach for them and their community, Production – to maximise value for money through correct institution-specific infrastructures, and Development – to test innovative or “novel” approaches in terms of their validity.

Higher Education Academy. Currently collaborating with the JISC in research on open content and its benefits, the Higher Education Academy is an independent body that aims to support higher education and improve the UK student learning experience. The Higher Education Academy not only assists research and supports institutions, but also has its own network of “discipline-specific” subject centres around the country that offer support on a subject, and individual level. With funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Academy set up a programme (commencing in April 2009) to make a range of learning resources written by academics, easily available and re-usable by other tutors via the internet.

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Effective Home Tuition Service / Academy

Introduction – Definition & Nature

The academic guidance of students at their home is called Home Tuition. The service providers of home tuition are generally evening academies of varied types. These academies are organized by educators and non-educators. An educator-driven academy will consider learning of pupil as her top priority, while investor-driven academy concentrates primarily on high profit. The quick lucrative return and effective tutoring create a trade-off situation, now and then. The best possible satisfaction of learning needs of students/parents and rational fulfillment of monetary demands of teachers / organizers is critical success factor of an academy. The paradoxical situation demands, inevitably, a comprehensive managerial/entrepreneurial approach for effective Supportive Learning Environment or Academy.

Practically, in home tutoring, a qualified tutor is sent directly to the client’s home. Children get an individualized guidance, not a predetermined one that all children of that age/class attain, but one that is specifically designed for the child’s unique requirements. An academy arranges home tutors. Parents/Students evaluate the final efficacy of tutor. A home tutor can be called for to address any special need of a student. Occasionally, the academy supervises the tutoring work to ensure that the pupil is getting effective learning support in weak areas that need special attention. Generally, parents supervise the tuition job of a tutor.

Demand of home tuition is generally seasonal work, parents demand tutors before exams for better results of their children. Home tuition is part-time activity of educators; they are available normally at evening time. University graduates are frequently involved in home tuition. They charge a smaller amount as compare to experienced teachers. The tuition earning compensates their educational/non-educational expenses. A few teachers adopt home tuition a full-time job.

Supportive Learning Environment – Individual Perspective

Home tuition or academic guidance is invoked on account of three reasons – divergent learners’ profile, distinct human psychology and diverse teachers’ profile. Firstly, nature lavishly offers countless gifts to humanity, both material and immaterial. Intellect is immaterial gift of God. At intellectual level, nature bestows human beings countless mental faculties and abilities. The naturally imparted faculties/abilities are unique and latent in our mind. In most cases, they are actualized only through external efforts, both formal and informal. The educational system of a society is a formal way to realize unique latent potential of students. However, at schools, students learn something with varied speed. They are quick, moderate and slow learner. A quick learner may divert the learning environment in his/her favor. The twisted situation may affect badly the mediocre or weak. Consequently, the latent faculties/abilities of great many students remain unobservable or untouched in unconscious mind. The situation necessitates the parents for additional help; generally, parents get the needed support from home tutors/academies.

Secondly, individual attention and personalized grooming is inevitable necessity of every leaner to realize distinctively awarded human latent potential. Generally, individual attention that a child gets in a school is on average 20 to 25 minutes per day. The situation makes the home the most important place of learning for children. Home Tuition or evening academy fulfils the deficiency of schools and owns the responsibility of less care of child’s development, both academic and psychological.

Thirdly, at schools, teachers are normal as well as superior. A normal teacher set the learning atmosphere according to the needs and demands of quick learners. The situation is problematic for mediocre or weak, but, they can catch the pace through home tuition or academy. The normal teaching approach is an important factor behind massive home tuition activity or evening academies. On the other hand, a superior teacher prepares educational lessons accommodating requirements of mediocre students. The approach is also fruitful, qualitatively, for quick learners. The slow learner can makeup his/her deficiencies through home tuition or evening academy. The mediocre-driven approach of teaching is inevitable for teachers on account of fixed academic days and stipulated syllabus. The situation, too, leads inevitably towards tutoring phenomenon for weak learners. The paucity of superior teachers and/or abundance of normal teachers are significant factors behind huge home tuition activity/evening academies.

Supportive Learning Environment – Collective Perspective

At collective level, home tuition or academic guidance is needed due to two reasons – strict education system and economic constraints. Firstly, academic days are fixed by state or local education department. A child spends more time at home as in school. The importance of home is thus an obvious fact during learning age. Parents manage the situation through supportive learning environment, that is, home tuition or academy. Secondly, nowadays, the economic life has become very demanding. Parents are busy in tiresome monetary works. They are overwhelmingly active in wealth accumulation for self-esteem or saving for siblings. They have limited time for proper guidance or coaching of their children. They need some learning support for their kids. There is obviously a learning vacuüm for proper grooming of siblings; the vacuüm is filled by home tutors/academies, then and there.

Achieving Trust of Parents

Parents are emotionally attached with their children. Normally, the top priority of responsible parents is to provide quality education to their siblings, so that low performance or poor results of child is stressful for parents. A good tutor relieves them from stress, thus, a sustainable better performance of student is real achievement of home tutor or home tuition provider. The supportive attitude of tutors increases trust level of parents. How it is shaped? It is emotional intelligence of tutor that can make ample room for tutor or tutoring network. The Emotional Intelligence of tutor motivates students towards self-motivated & self-regulated learning. An independent learner gives better results in exams/tests. Moreover, a self-motivated & self-regulated learner is successful during his/her education career. The effective supportive learning enhances trust level of parents on tutors or tutoring network. The spoon-feeding approach of learning is rewarding for tutors or academy for a while but it is inimical for students’ education career. On awareness, parents avoid such teachers/academies. In addition, in some cases, the rote learning technique is used by tutors for quick and better results. It is noteworthy that the usage of rote learning method tarnishes the image of tutor/academy, eventually. A rote learner is failed during multiple challenges of educational life. Besides emotional grooming towards learning an important factor that shapes parents’ trust is reasonable tuition fee.

Achieving Trust of Teachers

Teachers are generally less paid group of our society. They earn less as compare to their counterparts working in corporate sector/civil service. In addition, they are poorly equipped in financial dealings. They lose their due monetary share, now and again. The prompt and competitive return to teachers during facilitation process develops trust level between teacher and home tuition provider. How the desired situation is shaped? Teachers generally lack execution ability; it is execution intelligence of service provider that compels parents towards fair dealings or timely return. The situation develops better understanding between facilitator and tutors. In nutshell, an objective approach towards payment, tuition time and performance monitoring enhances the trust level of teachers on academy. It is noteworthy that trust level is developed gradually, slowly and painfully.

Developing Goodwill of Academy

An educational centre is recognized on account of high performing students. An academy is an educational institution. It creates a Supportive Learning Environment for students of varied types. Generally, an academy provides home tuition, arranges group classes and conducts motivational sessions. Students can be grouped into three broad categories – excellent, mediocre and weak. An excellent student needs outstanding grades, mediocre is looking for competitive edge and a weak student wants a respectable educational success. Meritorious learning environment of an academy or provision of competent tutor for each category of students enhances goodwill of academy. The scholastic incompetency of teachers creates bad reputation of academy among parents. The investor-driven academies adopt only cosmetic or superficial steps towards scholastic competency of tutors, for example, they are least hesitant on telling a lie about impressive education career of teachers.

Generally, teachers of low-performing institutions are busy in evening academies or home tutoring. There are two reasons behind it, first, the low remuneration at school may provoke a teacher towards home tutoring, and secondly, lust for money may incite an educator towards home coaching. Whatever may be the reason, teachers pay less attention at school for better earning through home tuition or academy. An investor-driven academy prefers such teachers, while an educator-driven academy avoids/trains them. Practically, an academy may plug the aforementioned loopholes through adopting wise managing approach based on the maxim, better performance of students, better return to educators. It is noticeable that superior teachers of well-performing institutions or excellent graduates are successful in evening academies or home tutoring.

Concluding Remarks – Fee Collection with Minimum Hassle

The financial circle of an academy involves teachers, parents, investors and organizers. Fair dealing and timely decision-making will continue the flow of financial circle in favor of all. An effective decision-making or fairness is based on accurate data. The accumulation of academic/behavioral data of teachers/parents is essential for any stable dealing. A well-performing Home Tuition Service will maintain teachers’ data, parents’ data and students’ data. An effective matching of teacher, parent and student is vital for stable linkage. The supportive matching would develop an effective communication network among all stakeholders. An effective communication means better financial dealings or better fee collection with less hassle. An effective academy may develop a communicative network with all stakeholders through multiple mediums such as mobile messages, emails, meetings and leaflets.

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