Academy Information and the role of the PCC
It is clearly government policy that as many schools as possible will become academies during their term of office.
The first Academies were established as a way of turning round failing secondary schools. They were based on revitalising the school with large building projects, often replacing the entire school, and introducing sponsors to take over running them.To do this the schools were taken out of Local Authority control and set up as state-funded independent schools.
The new Academies are very different from this original model.
What is an Academy today?
Contrary to the original Academies, most of the modern Academies are successful primary and secondary schools that are high performing and wish to have further control over the way they are managed. There are also schools that are considered to be underperforming or coasting and are being forced to become Academies to improve their management and performance.
Academisation gives successful schools the opportunity to take more control over their finance, staffing, curriculum etc. In the case of underperforming schools, they are taken over by a sponsor who will then run the school. In both cases they leave the care of the Local Authority and become state-funded independent schools; charitable companies whose sole purpose is to provide education.
Essentially, all new schools will be Academies, although there are exceptions for new Voluntary Aided (VA) schools.
How is one formed?
There are four ways in which Academies are created:
- Willing Conversion of succesful schools
- Sponsored Conversion fo schools not performing well
- New Schools
- Free Schools
If a school is considered to be performing well it can apply to become an Academy. If one or more foundations make appointments to the governing body, their permission must be obtained before the school can convert.
If a school is considered by the DfE to be under-performing it can be directed to become an Academy, but does not convert in the same way. Such schools must convert with an appropriate sponsor, who takes on the responsibility of not only running the school, but improving the standard of education at the school as well.
New School Academies
Nearly all new schools will be Academies and where a Local Authority perceives a need for a new school it will arrange with a sponsor to set up a new Academy or possibly extend an existing Academy to a new site.
The only exception is that it is possible to create a new VA school.
Free School Academies
Free schools are a special case and can be set up by any suitable proposer, where there is evidence of demand for one from parents. The new school will have to meet certain criteria (particularly in terms of admissions) but it would be an academy the same as any other new school.
The PCC’s role
As an appointing foundation for their local Church of England Voluntary Schools, whether Aided or Controlled the PCC continues to have a role in running the school but that role may change (see below).
Where a Church of England school wishes to convert to an academy the PCC, as an appointing foundation, has to give its approval before it can convert. Once converted the PCC role may be enhanced, in the case of a converting VA school or remain the same, in the case of a Voluntary Controlled (VC) School.
The Academy Trust (the charitable company that will run the school) is set up between the Diocese, through their umbrella trust company the Chelmsford Diocese Educational Trust (CDET), the incumbent and the PCC. These corporate bodies form the founding members and signatories to the Memorandum of Association and once the governing body has been appointed they are joined by the Chair of Governors as the Members of the Academy Trust (essentially the shareholders).
As a Member of the Trust the PCC has limited liability to the value of £10 for theTrust and the responsibilities shown in Responsibilities of Academy Trust Members.
It probably makes sense for the PCC to ‘appoint’ a representative to attend meetings on their behalf and report back to them, but that would be for the PCC to decide.
The PCC continues to appoint Governors as it does now, however, their governors will have increased responsibilities (see Responsibilities of Academy Trust Governors).
The Academy Trust is set up between CDET and two other appropriate people/organisations. The PCC and Incumbent cannot be part of the original three Members because a VC converter cannot have more than 25% Church representation amongst the members. The fourth Member will be the Chair of Governors once the governing body has formed and they have been appointed. If the Chair is the incumbent it makes no difference under the 25% rule because the Chair’s role is as the Governing Body’s representative not the Church’s.
The PCC’s role is therefore essentially unchanged and they continue to appoint representatives to the new governing body, however their governors will have increased responsibilities (see Responsibilities of Academy Trust Governors).
Where a school has been forced to become an Academy it is envisaged that the Diocese will become the sponsor. The responsibilities of Members will be the same as those for VA schools (Responsibilities of Academy Trust Members)and the Governor’s responsibilities will be as shown in Responsibilities of Academy Trust Governors.
In the case of a forced Academy the importance of school improvement is paramount and there is considerable pressure on Members and Governors alike to work on delivering it.
New School Academies
In the event that the Diocese is involved in setting up a new Academy the Diocese will be in the role of sponsor and the situation will be the same as a forced Academy with a similar emphasis on ensuring high standards of education.
Free School Academies
In the case of Free Schools, the process for setting up these schools makes any rigid approach by the Diocese to their structures difficult to plan and implement so each one will be treated as a one off and in some instances the PCC may be involved in the Academy Trust. Indeed, in some cases the PCC may be involved in proposing the school.
In all cases where the PCC is a member of the Academy Trust they undertake the responsibilities listed in Responsibilities of Academy Trust Members.
Where the PCC appoints Governors to the Academy’s Governing body they take on the responsibilities shown in Responsibilities of Academy Trust Governors.