This House of Commons Library briefing provides an overview of the current rules and recent reforms to relationships and sex education in English schools.
For more information about academies and free schools in general, see the Library paper FAQs: Academies and free schools.
Statistics on free schools and academies
The Government publishes several datasets regarding both academies and free schools.
For instance, Open academies, free schools, studio schools and UTCs reveals:
- the total number of open academies, free schools, studio schools and UTCs in England
- details of schools that are in the process of getting academy status
- progress schools are making towards converting to academy status
- sponsored academy projects in development and the agreed sponsor
You can also find out about successful free school applications.
To find out more about the costs of buying/renting land or building works amongst free schools, see Capital funding for free schools, UTCs and studio schools.
Academies consolidated annual report and accounts: 2016 to 2017 looks at academy school expenditure for that financial year, as well as performance.
Political party stances
Academies and free schools exist in England only. The four parties with MPs for English constituencies have a range of views on their future:
The Conservative party has a longstanding support for the academies programme, recently reemphasised by the Education Secretary in an 11 October speech to the Confederation of School Trusts.
The Department for Education announcement of his speech stated that:
[The] Education Secretary pointed to the many successes of the academies system and the increasing number of schools making the positive choice to convert as examples of the benefits of backing school leaders.
Mr Hinds said that it is a “fundamental point” that heads and school leaders should have the freedom to make decisions in the best interests of their schools.
Mr Hinds also said in the speech that the department was undertaking a listening period with multi-academy trust (MAT) leaders, school heads and school leaders to help shape the future accountability system for MATs.
In her speech to Labour party conference in September 2018, the shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, announced that, if elected, a future Labour Government would “start by immediately ending the Tories’ academy and free schools programmes.”
Angela Rayner stated that Labour would allow local authorities to build schools, create new school places and also take responsibility for admissions from academy trusts. The party would make it possible for academies to return to local authority control, and reform pay for staff, as well as restricting pay for Trust leadership. The shadow Education Secretary further stated that a Labour Government would ensure all publicly-funded schools had “a common rulebook and [were] under local democratic control.”
The Liberal Democrats would remove the presumption that all new state funded schools must be free schools, and give local authorities “clear responsibility for local school places planning.”
At their spring conference in March 2018, the Liberal Democrats also stated that they would abolish Regional School Commissioners and instead have local authorities take responsibility for education standards. The party would also abolish Ofsted, to be replaced with a new HM Inspector of Schools. Inspections would apply to local authorities and MATs as well as individual schools.
The Green party opposes the academies programme, believing academies lack local democratic accountability and oversight. The party’s policy is to integrate the schools into the local authority school system. The party believes all teachers in state funded education should be employed through local authorities and have Qualified Teacher Status.
The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill 2019-20 was introduced by Mike Amesbury MP following the Private Members' Bills Ballot on 9 January 2020. The Bill is supported by the Government.
This briefing has been updated following the release of examination results in summer 2020.