The election of the Conservative-led Coalition government in England in 2010 brought with it the promise of an ‘education revolution’, central to which is the Academies Act (2010). Via a vast expansion of the academies programme introduced by Labour, the Academies act aims to raise standards for all children and to reduce the achievement gap between most and least disadvantaged children. In this paper we explore the original notion of academies as invented by Labour and consider how the Coalition’s ideas differfrom this. Drawing on interviews conducted with professionals involved in the implementation and operation of academies, we consider issues concerned with their conceptualisation and implementation and evaluate their success so far. We argue that, aside from the scale of their ambition, the nature of academies and the direction of education in England under the Coalition’s academies programme is not as innovative as it may first appear. We propose that despite differences in rhetoric, the policies of the conservative-led coalition and the predecessor Labour government are remarkably similar and, contrary to their stated goal of narrowing the achievement gap, the academies programme poses a risk of further disadvantaging already challenged children and increasing the gap in achievement between disadvantaged pupils and theirless disadvantaged peers.