Working to make government more effective

Analysis paper

The Gove reforms a decade on: What worked, what didn’t, what next?

How to build a coherent all-academy system.

Michael Gove as education secretary
Michael Gove speaking as education secretary at the Conservative Party Conference in 2013.

A decade since Michael Gove passed legislation allowing all schools to convert to academy status, this report sets out a programme of reform to build a coherent all-academy system.

It argues that high-quality multi-academy trusts (MATs) can be the bedrock of the English education system. However, the unplanned evolution of the academies programme – deprioritised by successive prime ministers and resisted by Conservative-run local authorities – has left big gaps and misalignments in the education system.

As of November 2021, 45.4% of schools are academies (79.5% of which are secondaries and 38.3% primaries). The result is an inefficient ‘dual system’ where local authorities still have to support a diminishing number of schools with declining resources, a serious misalignments between powers and responsibilities, a lack of clarity over who is responsible for school improvement, and no single person or office able to properly hold MATs accountable for poor educational performance.

With an education white paper – which will be the first time since 2016 that the government will set out a clear vision for the future of the system – promised for Spring 2022, and the Department for Education freed from the all-consuming demands of the pandemic response, the report says education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has a real opportunity to map a coherent process for moving to a fully academised system and sets out three recommendations to achieve this aim.

Public figures
Michael Gove
Institute for Government

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