IN 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron announced he was giving all schools the chance to become academies as part of a drive to “extend opportunity to all”.

Academies have more freedom than schools under local authority control over their finances and curriculum, and the government argues this drives up standards and cuts bureaucracy.

But the academisation programme has also left the education system hugely fragmented, and while state schools are accountable to the local authority for their failings, academies are accountable to the sprawling, faceless Department for Education.

Insisting budgetary freedom is partly a step towards improving standards is a complete misnomer – whether the funding comes from the government or the local authority, the size of the pot is as important as how it is spent. It has been well publicised that schools are crying out for more funding, and the new National Funding Formula announced last year left headteachers underwhelmed.

The North-East has a higher proportion of under-performing secondary schools than anywhere else in England. Darlington, where every school is now an academy, was among the ten worst places in the country.

The region has its challenges in terms of recruiting teachers, poverty and cutbacks in local authority support services, which will all contribute to these figures. But it is becoming increasingly clear that academisation is far from a magic button which solves all a school’s ills, especially when resources are so scarce.