Academies: Diversity, Economism, and Contending Forces for Change

  • Philip A. Woods
Part of the Marxism and Education book series (MAED)


The focus of this chapter is the UK government’s academies programme in England and the contending forces that characterise this key policy aimed at bringing about transformational change in education.1 First, a brief outline is provided of the programme’s policy context, where the concern is to create more enterprising public institutions exposed to and involving new private players in education. Second, the academies programme is discussed, with particular attention being given to the developing pattern of sponsorship. Third, in the context of an emergent governance system of ‘plural controlled schooling’, two competing hypotheses are put forward: one suggesting that, despite an emphasis on innovation and diversity, academies tend to converge around an instrumentally driven, business-orientated model of entrepreneurialism and educational priorities; the second suggesting diversification, where meanings and practice show significant variations, including opportunities for progressive change. This second hypothesis looks for the degree to which new openings emerge in the programme, creating spaces for educational alternatives nurturing broader understandings of human potentiality and personal capacities for self-determination. The chapter concludes by drawing attention to the deficit in democratic accountability and the importance of the system’s underlying philosophy.


Charter School Network Governance Convergence Hypothesis Educational Priority Plural System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Antonio, R. J. (1998) Mapping Postmodern Social Theory, in Sica, A. (ed) What Is Social Theory? The Philosophical Debates, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 46–49.Google Scholar
  2. Armstrong, D., Bunting, V. and Larsen, J. (2009) Academies: A Model for School Improvement? Key Findings from a Five-Year Longitudinal Evaluation, Management in Education, 23 (3): 118–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ball, S. J. (1994) Education Reform: A Critical and Post-Structural Approach, Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Ball, S. J. (2008) The Legacy of ERA, Privatization and the Policy Ratchet, Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 36 (2): 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barker, A. and Turner, D. (2007) Academies Restored to the Local Field, Financial Times, 27th September.Google Scholar
  6. Beckett, F. (2007) The Great City Academy Fraud, London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  7. Blair, T. (1998). The Third Way: New Politics for the New Century, London: The Fabian Society.Google Scholar
  8. Burnett, J. (2009) Authentic Assessment in the First Steiner Academy, Management in Education, 23 (3): 118–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castle View Enterprise Academy. (2009) Prospectus 2009, Sunderland: Castle View Enterprise Academy.Google Scholar
  10. Clarke, J. and Newman, J. (1997) The Managerial State, London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  11. The Co-operative Group/Manchester City Council. (2007) Financial and Professional Services Academy in Manchester City Council: Expression of Interest for an Academy,, accessed 18th February 2009.Google Scholar
  12. Courpasson, D. and Clegg, S. (2006) Dissolving the Iron Cages? Tocqueville, Michels, Bureaucracy and the Perpetuation of Elite Power, Organization 13 (3): 319–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Curtis, A. (2009) Academies and School Diversity, Management in Education, 23 (3): 113–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Curtis, A., Exley, S., Sasia, A., Tough, S. and Whitty, G. (2008) The Academies Programme: Progress, Problems and Possibilities: A Report for the Sutton Trust, London: The Sutton Trust and Institute of Education, University of London.Google Scholar
  15. Department for Children, Schools and Families. (2007) The Children’s Plan, Cm 7280, London: Department for Children, Schools and Families.Google Scholar
  16. Department for Education and Skills. (DfES) (2005) What Are Academies? Available online at: Scholar
  17. DiMaggio, P. D. and Powell, W. (1983). The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields, American Sociological Review, 48 (2): 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Du Gay, P. (2004) Against ‘Enterprise’, Organization, 11 (1): 37–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Egan, P. (2006) This Week in the Media—City Academies: Innovation or Just Education? 20/01/2006, press release, London: Royal Society for the Arts.Google Scholar
  20. Fielding, M. (2008) Beyond Student Voice to Democratic Community: An Exploratory Paper, paper presented at ‘New Developments in Student Voice: Shaping Schools for the Future’, Birkbeck College, University of London, 12th June,, accessed 18th February 2009.Google Scholar
  21. Fielding, M. (2009) Public Space and Educational Leadership: Reclaiming and Renewing Our Radical Traditions, in Woods, P. A. and O’Hair, M. J. (eds) special issue on Democracy and School Leadership, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 37 (4): 497–521.Google Scholar
  22. Glatter, R. (2003) Governance and Educational Innovation, in B. Davies and J. West-Burnham (eds) Handbook of Educational Leadership and Management, London: Pearson.Google Scholar
  23. Glatter, R. and Woods, P. A. (1995) Parental Choice and School Decision Making: Operating in a Market-Like Environment, in K-C Wong and K-M Cheung (eds) Educational Leadership and Change: An International Perspective, Hong Kong: Hong.Google Scholar
  24. Gleeson, D. and Knights, D. (2006) ‘Challenging Dualism: Public Professionalism in “Troubled” Times’, Sociology 40 (2): 277–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goldring, E. and Cravens, X. (2008) Teachers’ Academic Focus on Learning in Charter and Traditional Schools, in M. Bereneds, M. G. Springer and H. J. Walberg (eds) Charter School Outcomes, New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  26. Gorard, S. (2009) What Are Academies the Answer To? Journal of Education Policy, 24 (1): 101–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hatcher, R. (2009) Setting up Academies, Campaigning Against Them: An Analysis of a Contested Policy Process, Management in Education, 23 (3): 108–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hereford Steiner School. (2006) Academy update, October 16,, accessed January 19, 2008.Google Scholar
  29. House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills. (2005) Secondary Education: Fifth Report of Session 2004–05, London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  30. Hill, D., Sanders, M. and Hankin, T. Marxism, Class Analysis and Postmodernism, in D. Hill, P. McLaren, M. Cole and G. Rikowski (eds) Marxism Against Postmodernism in Educational Theory, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  31. Jeffrey, R. and Woods, P. E. (2003) The Creative School, London: Routledge-Falmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kingston, P. (2006) Picking Up the Pieces, Education Guardian, 11th April, p. 1.Google Scholar
  33. Kratochwil, F. (2007) Looking Back from Somewhere: Reflections on What Remains ‘Critcial’ in Critical Theory, Review of International Studies, 33: 25–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lochrie, M. (2006) The Learning We Live By: Introduction, in The Learning We Live By: Education Policies for Children, Families and Communities, London: Capacity.Google Scholar
  35. Machin, S. and Wilson, J. (2009) Academy Schools and Pupils Performance, CentrePiece, Spring, 7–8.Google Scholar
  36. Maguire, M. (2005) ‘Textures of Class in the Context of Schooling: The Perceptions of a “Class-crossing” Teacher’, Sociology 39 (3): 427–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Manchester Academies Consultation. (2007a) Business & Enterprise Academy, Manchester: Manchester Academies Consultation; downloaded from, accessed February 11, 2009.Google Scholar
  38. Manchester Academies Consultation. (2007b) Finance & Business Academy, Manchester: Manchester Academies Consultation; downloaded from, accessed February 9, 2009.Google Scholar
  39. Manchester City Council. (2006) Manchester’s Education Partnership Launch Building Tomorrow’s Workforce, Developing Tomorrow’s Citizen, Manchester: Manchester City Council.Google Scholar
  40. Marley, D. (2007a) Spreading the Faith at the Double, Times Educational Supplement, 23 March, p. 12.Google Scholar
  41. Marley, D. (2007b) ‘Stand-off Over Academy Push’, Times Educational Supplement, 5 October 2007, p. 7.Google Scholar
  42. Marx, K. (1973) Grundrisse: Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, Middlesex: Penguin.Google Scholar
  43. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1967) The Communist Manifesto, Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  44. Meszaros, I. (1970) Marx’s Theory of Alienation, London: The Merlin Press.Google Scholar
  45. National Union of Teachers. (NUT) (2007) Academies—Looking Beyond the Spin: Why the NUT Calls for a Different Approach (London, NUT).Google Scholar
  46. Needham, C. and Gleeson, D. (2006) Academy Schools: Case Unproven, London: Catalyst and Public World collaborative report for the NASUWT.Google Scholar
  47. Newman, J. (2005) Enter the Transformational Leader: Network Governance and the Micro-politics of Modernization, Sociology, 39 (4): 717–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Osborne, D. and Gaebler, T. (1992) Reinventing Government, New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  49. PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2008) Academies Evaluation: Fifth Annual Report, London: Department for Children, Schools and Families.Google Scholar
  50. RSA. (2006) RSA Impact Report 2006, London: Royal Society for the Arts.Google Scholar
  51. RSA Academy. (2009) Prospectus 2009, Tipton: RSA Academy.Google Scholar
  52. School Coop. (2008) Co-op News Article—Trust Schools, downloaded from, accessed January 29, 2009.Google Scholar
  53. Titcombe, R. (2008) How Academies Threaten the Comprehensive Curriculum, Forum, 50 (1): 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tomlinson, M. (2006) Will Academies Make the Grade?, RSA Journal, June, pp. 32–35.Google Scholar
  55. Whitty, G., Edwards, T. and Gewirtz, S. (1993) Specialisation and Choice in Urban Education: the City Technology College Experiment (London, Routledge).Google Scholar
  56. Williams, L., Cate, J. and O’Hair, M. J. (2009) The Boundary-spanning Role of Democratic Learning Communities: Implementing the IDEALS, in Woods, P. A. and O’Hair, M. J. (eds), special issue on Democracy and School Leadership, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 37 (4): 452–472.Google Scholar
  57. Wilson, M. and Mills, C. (2008) Co-operative Values Make a Difference in the Curriculum and Governance of Schools, Manchester: The Co-operative College.Google Scholar
  58. Woods, G. J., Woods, P. A. and Ashley, M. (2005) Building Bridges Conference: Summary of Outcomes—’Towards a Wider Sense of Community?, Bristol: Faculty of Education, University of the West of England.Google Scholar
  59. Woods, P. A. (2003) ‘Building on Weber to Understand Governance: Exploring the Links Between Identity, Democracy and “Inner Distance”’, Sociology 37 (1): 143–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Woods, P. A. (2004) Democratic Leadership: Drawing Distinctions with Distributed Leadership, International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice 7 (1): 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Woods, P. A. (2005) Democratic Leadership in Education, London: Sage.Google Scholar
  62. Woods, P. A. (2007) Enterprise in Education: All Things to All People?, Keynote, Co-operate to Succeed: Scottish Teachers’ Conference, Co-operative Education Trust Scotland, 1st November.Google Scholar
  63. Woods, P. A. (2009) Rationalisation, Disenchantment and Re-Enchantment: Engaging with Weber’s Sociology of Modernity, in M. Apple, S. J. Ball and L. A. Gandin (eds), International Handbook of the Sociology of Education, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Woods, P. A. and Broadfoot, P. (2008) Vers le controle pluriel de l’Ecole? La nature chageante du pouvoir dans le système educatif anglais [Towards Plural Controlled Schooling? The Shifting Nature of Power in the English Education System], Revue Internationale de Sevres, 48: 83–95.Google Scholar
  65. Woods, P. A. and Woods, G. J. (2009) Testing a Typology of Entrepreneurialism: Emerging Findings from an Academy with an Enterprise Specialism, Management in Education, 23 (3): 125–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Woods, P. A., Woods, G. J. and Gunter, H. (2007) ‘Academy Schools and Entrepreneurialism in Education’, Journal of Education Policy, 22 (2): 263–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Anthony Green 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip A. Woods

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations