One of Tony Blair’s reforms that I’m fond of is the Academy program–the equivalent of a sponsored charter school in the US.  The BBC reports that the 200th opened with 67 more to come this year.    They’re dropping a feature that I liked–the requirement to invest at least 2 million Pounds.  It struck me as just enough to fully commit a business partner to the success of a new school.  But it makes sense after hitting the 200 milestone; as Children’s Secretary Ed Balls says he wants to “attract successful charities, parents’ groups and private firms” as academy sponsors.

This was a personal priority of Blair.  I attended a meeting where he pitched business partners.  He was passionate and informed.

Like US charters, “teachers’ unions have been sceptical of the academy programme – arguing that the extra spending on academies has a divisive impact on other local schools.”

I visited a couple academies with Blair’s team and was impressed by the new government funded facilities.  “Often replacing failing schools, academies have been credited by the government with improving exam results at a faster rate than the national average.”  The Academy Programme is part of a huge facilities modernization effort.  It’s been a terrifically successful idea to combine modernization, accountability, and sponsorship.

With LAUSD’s new plan to RFP new schools, they could encourage sponsored charters–a great way to actually make charters work in LA.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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