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The development of Academy schools and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) to oversee the management of such schools has been a well-documented dimension of the marketisation of education in England and Wales over the past 20 years. As such, when writing about the New Right and / or marketisation in an exam this is an obvious example to note.

What may be less obvious, however, is an idea noted by Warwick Mansell (Is reputation a touchy subject for chain?) when he suggests branding – how “the public” perceive a particular chain of schools and the impact this might have on student recruitment – has become a significant factor in relation to the management of some schools.

“An academy chain considered declining to take over a struggling school because of the potential risk to its “brand”, a document released under freedom of information reveals.

The minutes of a meeting in February of the E-ACT trust’s audit and risk committee show senior staff and trustees worrying that the unnamed Bristol school’s “poor exam results could trigger an Ofsted inspection”, which would lead to a “requires improvement” judgment after the takeover “resulting in damage to E-ACT brand”.

In the end, E-ACT did take on a Bristol primary it now names Hareclive academy, approved by the DfE. It says the discussion about its brand was all part of its “due diligence” and it was pleased to have received the department’s vote of confidence. 

But the concentration on “brand” may be seen by some as another manifestation of increasing commercialisation in schools. And some might wonder why E-ACT was allowed to expand after Ofsted warned, just weeks before the meeting that it was providing too many of its pupils with a “not good enough” education. The chain lost control of 10 schools in 2014 after an earlier Ofsted report, so its reputation may be a touchy subject.”

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