The National Audit Office has reported that the Department for Education has delivered a fundamental change in the nature of the Academies Programme through a rapid, ten-fold increase in the number of academies since May 2010. This increase is a significant achievement. However, the Department was unprepared for the scale of the financial implications arising from such a rapid expansion. In the two years between April 2010 and March 2012, the Department had to meet an estimated GBP1 billion of additional costs, while remaining within its overall spending limits.By September 2012, 2,309 academies had opened, compared with 203 in May 2010. This represents significant growth of 1,037 per cent, most of which has been from schools choosing to convert to academy status. Academies have greater financial freedoms than maintained schools and the Department's approach to approving applications - coupled with the fact that most converters to date have been outstanding and good schools - appears so far to have managed the risk of schools converting with underlying performance issues. However, more schools with lower Ofsted ratings are now applying to the Programme. Future applicants may therefore require more in-depth assessment and support to manage potential risks.
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