The first thing to realise is that the decision to become an Academy is the biggest and most significant decision the governing body is ever likely to make.
It is deciding whether to stay as a maintained school, funded and supported by a Local Authority, or change to being an Independent School under contract to the Government.
If the Department for Education requires your school to change because it is underperforming, the decision is somewhat simplified and covered by the document for Schools 'Required to Convert to Academy Status'.
What is the school changing to?
One of the most important questions you need to consider is ‘What type of Academy Trust are you thinking about becoming?’
This may seem too soon to be thinking of this but whilst you do not have to make the decision before starting the process, significant parts of the process are determined by this decision.
If you wish to examine the Pictorial representations of the relationships for each type of Trust please feel free to right click on them and download them to see them full size.
Single School Trust - A standalone Academy (good and outstanding schools only).
Multi-Academy Trust - A group of schools run by a single Academy trust.
Local Umbrella Trust - A group of schools co-operating together with power to intervene if one starts to fail.
Local Collaborative Trust - A group of schools co-operating together with no power to intervene even if one starts to fail.
What will change?
All these changes are significant and their impact will not be fully understood until conversion has occurred and it is too late. Careful consideration is needed to ensure that the school is as prepared as possible.
Finance - Revenue Funding no longer via the LA but direct from the EFA. The EFA currently request bids nationally for capital projects.
An Academy is an independent school and is therefore run as a business and has to follow company law including submitting annual returns and audited accounts.
Governance - Major changes to the way the school is governed depending on the type of Trust (see above)
Relationship with LA although the school may choose to buy in services from a Local Authority, it does not have to do so.
Relationship with the Diocese - Initially it should be essentially unchanged although the Government is holding Dioceses responsible for the standards of their schools and this will undoubtedly have an impact on the relationship in the future.
Relationship with the PCC - Initially it should be essentially unchanged although where the PCC is a Member of the Academy Trust (see governance) they will be held responsible for the educational standards of the school alongside the Diocese.
Relationship with Government - Academies have a very different relationship with the government from maintained schools. The government is the Academy’s only customer. The funding agreement is a seven year contract with the SoS to provide education
Land - Where the land is held by a Trust (the school’s original trust) there will be no change. Where the land is publically owned a 125 year lease will be set up.
What is the process of changing?
The Department for Education’s process is available from its website. The stages will frequently run together and may be carried out in a different order.
Essentially the process will be as follows:
Governors decide to look at the possibility of becoming an Academy
Governors carry out a consultation with all interested parties to help inform their decision
- Governing body decides to apply to become an Academy
- Governors seek permission from interested parties
- Register an interest in becoming an Academy (you will be allocated a DfE Officer to advise you)
- Deciding on a model of Governance with advice from your named DfE Officer and Diocese
- Resolving Land Issues
- TUPE Consultation
- Due Diligence
- Formal Application to convert
- Obtaining a Funding Agreement
- Open as a Academy
Who needs to be consulted?
The government requires that there should be a consultation but leaves it up to the schools to decide who should be consulted and how the consultation should be done. Church Schools are required to get the permission of the DBE who require the following groups to be consulted.
Governors - There is a big change in the role of Governors and it is important that time is taken to consider how the changes will affect them.
Diocese (DBE) - The Diocese of Chelmsford DBE has agreed that they would ‘neither discourage nor encourage’ schools considering conversion and each school’s application should be considered on its merits.
Incumbent - In most cases the incumbent will be an Ex-officio Governor and will be consulted as part of the process as a matter of course but they will have a multi-faceted role in the conversion and may become a Member of the Academy Trust after conversion. They need to consider their position carefully.
PCC - In most Church Schools the PCC will be an Appointing Foundation and therefore, like the DBE, their permission is required before conversion can proceed. It is therefore essential to consult them at an early stage.
Other Foundation - Foundation Schools and some other schools will have other foundations that need to be consulted and, if they appoint governors, their permission will be needed.
Parents - Parents need to be informed about the discussions and their views taken into account
Staff - Staff will be affected by the changes not least because they will have a change of employer.
Children - It is not essential to consult the children but their views are welcomed by the DBE.
LA - The LA will probably do no more than acknowledge the notification that the school are considering converting but they need to be included Other Local Schools - Consultation with schools in the locality is essential as effective partnbership working between schools benefits all.
Whose permission is needed and how to get it?
Diocese of Chelmsford (DBE) - To get permission from the Diocese download and complete the application form based on our guidance document. It will take you through the consultation and preparation work necessary for the DfE process (if considering a group conversion please also use this application form and guidance document).
PCC - The PCC will need to discuss the conversion at a quorate meeting and vote in favour then produce a letter of consent. (The DBE will want to see minutes of the meeting)
Other Foundation (if appropriate) - Depending on the foundation the same process as the PCC should be sufficient.
Trustees of original Trust - Where the school uses the land held in Trust by Trustees other than the Chelmsford DBF, it will be necessary to get their permission to use the land for the converted school.
Secretary of State - The school writes to the Secreatry of State to request an Academy order. There is now a role for the Regional Schools Commissioner and Headteacher Board in Academy conversions.